Be Your Own Birder

The Good and Bad of Earth Day

Earth Day is a popular holiday to raise awareness for all things environmental – climate change, pollution, plastic litter, clean air, deforestation, sustainable living, habitat loss, endangered species, and of course, birds. Yet while this is a great day for those awareness issues, Earth Day should be far more than just one day, and if all we do is celebrate and honor our planet on just one day, the holiday has failed in its goals and intentions.

California and Baja Coast from Space - Photo by NASA/Goddard/Suomin-NPP/VIIRS
California and Baja Coast from Space – Photo by NASA/Goddard/Suomin-NPP/VIIRS

The History of Earth Day

This planet-friendly holiday was first instituted in 1970, largely in universities, colleges, and schools to peacefully protest for environmental reform. General pollution was the focal point for that first Earth Day, and it has remained a cornerstone of the awareness this holiday seeks to raise. Over the years, many other environmental concerns have been discussed in conjunction with Earth Day, often with local and regional focuses. Today, it is one of the most popular and most widespread non-religious holidays celebrated, with more than one billion participants in more than 190 nations taking part in demonstrations, activities, lessons, tree plantings, beach cleanups, recycling drives, crafts, and other earth-friendly actions each year.

Planting a Seedling - Photo by Pacific Southwest Forest Service, USDA
Planting a Seedling – Photo by Pacific Southwest Forest Service, USDA

The Good of Earth Day

All of this is good – raising awareness about environmental issues and taking part in activities to help clean up the planet and preserve our environment, including the natural habitats where birds and wildlife thrive. Earth Day has been responsible for billions of dollars worth of fundraisers to benefit a wide range of eco-friendly charities and organizations, including bird rehabilitators and wildlife hospitals. This holiday has sparked passions in students, inspired artists, and encouraged countless people from all walks of life to take even small, easy steps to be more sustainable and responsible with natural resources. Earth Day has helped coordinate volunteers, raised civic engagement, and been a powerful force for change regarding environmental policies and overall societal sustainability.

Earth Day and the Birds

Many bird-oriented organizations incorporate Earth Day efforts and activities into their awareness calendars. Popular options for helping the birds on Earth Day include…

  • Filling, refilling, cleaning, or adding new bird feeders to the yard
  • Putting out a bird house or nesting materials for spring’s nesting birds
  • Planting flowers, trees, or grasses with birds in mind
  • Taking steps to minimize bird window collisions during spring migration
  • Cleanups at bird refuges, preserves, sanctuaries, and sensitive habitats
  • Adoptions of symbolic birds to support rehab facilities and rescues
Help baby piping plovers - Every day! - Photo by Russ
Help baby piping plovers – Every day! – Photo by Russ

The Bad of Earth Day

Yet there is a little-recognized, often hidden dark side to Earth Day…

It’s only one day.

To truly make the best difference, to raise sustainability practices to actually sustainable levels on a planetary scale, and to keep these one-day efforts effective, we need to practice Earth Day activities every day. Fortunately, it’s easy to do, budget-friendly, and can make a lasting impact not just on the planet, but on those around us as we model earth-friendly behaviors, such as…

  • Recycling properly, according to what recycling facilities are locally available
  • Minimizing chemical use – pesticides, herbicides, perfumes, dyes, etc. – inside and out
  • Conserving resources at all times, such as minimizing water use and turning off electricity
  • Going green whenever we can, such as public transit, sustainable packaging, etc.
  • Skipping the straw or otherwise reducing or eliminating single-use plastic
  • Picking up litter at every opportunity, not just at a designated cleanup or special event
  • Choosing native landscaping in the yard and nurturing the wildlife that uses it
  • Assisting local refuges and preserves through volunteer efforts, donations, or other means

Most importantly, get out and enjoy our earth and all its natural beauty. Marvel in the mountains, have fun with flowers, bask on beaches, spend time with trees, wonder at wildlife, and yes, enjoy birds all along the way. The more we recognize, appreciate, and enjoy the inherent beauty and stunning nature of our planet, the more we will be moved to help protect, conserve, and preserve it, every day – not just April 22.

Earth - Photo by NASA/NOAA GOES Project
Earth – Photo by NASA/NOAA GOES Project

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