Held on April 22, 1970, the first Earth Day was a call to action. Air pollution was making it hard to breathe in our cities. Water pollution was contaminating our drinking water and closing our favorite places to fish and swim. Rivers were catching on fire, and oil spills were killing our wildlife. More than 20 million Americans concerned about our nation’s environmental problems came together in marches and rallies and demanded action.
The first Earth Day jump-started the modern environmental movement. By the end of 1970, both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection were created and the Clean Air Act passed. Two years later, Congress passed the Clean Water Act, and a year after that, the Endangered Species Act.
Amendments to the Clean Water Act in 1987 created the National Estuary Program. The Barnegat Bay Partnership is one of the 28 programs working to protect and restore the water quality and natural resources of our nation’s ecologically and economically important estuaries.
On the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, let’s celebrate the progress we’ve made and commit to taking action on the environmental challenges we continue to face. Global problems like climate change, sea level rise, and plastic pollution demand cooperation and decisive action, and we can learn a lot from the successes of the first Earth Day.
Fun Ways to Celebrate Earth Day From Home
Here are some ideas about how to celebrate Earth Day and make a difference for the environment during this time of COVID-19 social distancing.
Plant some natives in your yard. Native plants have so many benefits for the environment – their deep roots absorb and filter water, they thrive in our local soils and climate without the need to apply fertilizers and pesticides, and they provide habitat for wildlife. Visit Jersey-Friendly Yards to learn more and use the website’s searchable Plant Database to find the best native plants for your yard. See the Where to Buy page for a list of nurseries by county plus online nurseries that will ship plants to you.
Take photos for a BioBlitz. A BioBlitz is an event that focuses on finding and identifying as many species as possible in a specific area over a short period of time. New Jersey Audubon is hosting a statewide BioBlitz from April 22 through April 28. Anyone can participate by taking photos of the animals and plants in your yard or neighborhood, then uploading them to the iNaturalist app. Daily challenges make it even more fun. Get started on the NJ Audubon website.
Clean up the neighborhood. Do your own clean-up while practicing social distancing, then report your trash data to The Watershed Institute. Learn more on their 2020 Earth Week Cleanups page, including safe practices and how to upload the data.
Learn from the experts. There are some great free webinars available today and in the upcoming months. Pre-registration is required to participate. At 3 p.m. today, the Ocean County Soil Conservation District is offering a free webinar about Pollinator Conservation by Kelly Gill of the Xerces Society. Rutgers Cooperative Extension is offering a series of Earth Day at Home webinars on Mondays at 6:30 p.m. in April, May, and June. This series focuses on steps everyone can take to protect the environment.
Watch a Barnegat Bay video. Check out this family-friendly AquaKids video about the Barnegat Bay’s unique habitats and research being done by the Partnership. In our State of the Bay video, see scientists in action as they monitor conditions in the bay and get an overview of its ecological health. There are many other Barnegat Bay videos to choose from on our YouTube channel.