22 April 2011
Earth science on Earth Day
Posted by Jessica Ball
Although Earth Day was originally an environmental movement (the brainchild of Senator Gaylord Nelson, and his response to seeing the aftereffects of the Santa Barbara oil spill), over the years it has been adopted by a number of Earth science organizations as well. Since it’s a Friday (and almost the end of the semester), I’m not creative enough to come up with my own Earth Day topic, but I did want to highlight what Earth science groups are doing today. Unfortunately, the list seems to be pretty thin (there are a lot of local groups sponsoring events, but not some of the larger organizations you might expect.
- Marcia McNutt, the director of the U.S. Geological Survey, released a letter highlighting why every day is Earth Day at the USGS. She’s also giving Earth Day talks at the University of New Mexico, and there are small events being sponsored by USGS offices around the country.
- The Environmental Protection Agency has a nationwide list of events on their Earth Day home page.
- NASA has a page of Earth Day features, including a live chat with scientists in Greenland about an airborne ice monitoring program.
- The Weather Channel is re-broadcasting a series (called Changing Planet) of town hall meetings about climate change sponsored by the National Science Foundation. (You’re supposed to be able to watch it online at NBC Learn, Discover Magazine and NSF.gov, but the only live link seems to be through NBC Learn.)
- NOAA had a page dedicated to last year’s Earth Day – with a lot of events and activities – nothing this year, though.
- AND…there’s not much of anything current on the GSA, AGU or IUGG websites.
This isn’t to say that events aren’t happening – individual community groups, state geological surveys, colleges and universities are doing a lot to get involved in community Earth Day activities, and the Earth Day Network has an exhaustive list of events going on all over the country. But I was surprised by how hard it was to find much involvement at all this year from organizations that Earth scientists support and rely on. Is it just a bad year financially? Is it just not popular enough right now to be involved in environmental activism? A lot of government agencies which deal with those kinds of issues are dealing with budget cuts this year, but I would think that that is great incentive to become more visible in the public eye, not less – and especially to take advantage of a nationally-recognized holiday.
Unless you concentrate on the local level, it’s a pretty disappointing roundup of events for this year. We as Earth science bloggers could definitely do something to help change this (and I include myself, having been fairly lazy when it comes to making any Earth Day plans). Writing letters and rebroadcasting TV shows is all well and good, but it’s not doing much good for us or the Earth in the long run – and that’s the whole point of Earth Day to begin with.