How the Silicon Forest, the nation and the world is using technology to take action on Earth Day in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 50th Anniversary of Earth Day has come at an eerie time as we see photos of cleaner skies and waters next to photos of suffering families and closing businesses. The novel coronavirus has so far claimed more than 146,00 lives worldwide, halted economies and fundamentally changed much of humanity. While our communities step up to fight the economic, health and environmental threats, technology has played a key role in information dissemination, public organizing and human connection.

Changes Around the World

As the world stands still, the Himalayan mountain range emerges from the skyline in places like Punjab, India, for the first time in decades due to heavy pollution. The typically crowded waterways of Venice, Italy have settled after a season of flooding and over-tourism. Some research suggests the coronavirus crisis could trigger the largest ever annual fall in CO2 emissions.

And although the historic drop in carbon emissions and overall pollution seems like a much-needed silver lining, it is also a stark reminder of the conflict between the global economy and the drastic changes that must be made to protect and sustain our planet. Today nearly two-thirds of Americans believe that stricter environmental regulations are worth the cost.

Organizers around the world expected a 1-billion-person global celebration for the 50th anniversary of Earth Day this year. A day typically centered around demonstrations, gatherings, marches, speeches, and concerts has responded to the pandemic by encouraging at-home activities and online activism.

The Pacific Northwest 50 Years Ago

One of the principal organizers of the Earth Day in the U.S., Denis Hayes discovered his passion for environmental health in the Pacific Northwest. Hayes grew up in a smelly paper-mill community in Washington state where he witnessed his favorite camping spots cleared by logging and uncontrolled water pollution leading to massive fish kills. Many Pacific Norwest residents have similar disruptive stories.

Hayes went on to organize with millions, and with the help of Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson brought national and eventually global attention to the environmental challenges of the time through Earth Day.

“Earth Day is both a celebration and a time to reflect,” said Chris Hladick, EPA Region 10 Regional Administrator in Seattle. “A time to celebrate the hard-fought progress and achievement of both the public and EPA’s dedicated workforce, but also an opportunity to reflect on what it means to stay the course. EPA’s Region 10 welcomes the commitment and tenacity of our state, tribal and local partners as we continue our drive to protect the water we drink, the air we breathe and the land we call home here in the Pacific Northwest.”

PNW Changes to Be Proud Of

  • In 1970, over 40% of the nation’s drinking water systems failed to meet basic health standards.
  • Today, over 92% of community water systems meet all health-based standards.
  • America continues to lead in clean air progress by reducing the six main criteria air pollutants by 73%.
  • The nation has doubled to 86% the number of low-income communities achieving attainment with EPA’s National Ambient Air Quality Standards since 2008.
  • EPA’s successful Superfund and Brownfields programs are bringing opportunity back to communities.

The Silicon Forest Today

Portland, Oregon ranks in the top ten greenest cities in America according to a study done in 2019. Communities in the SIlicon Forest share a commitment to more sustainable habits in order to preserve the environment. Individuals and companies alike had planned to celebrate Earth Day 2020 in Oregon with volunteer events, rallies, parades, concerts and more.

Today companies and organizations across the state, including ProFocus, believe it is extremely important to exercise our individual and collective responsibility to act for environmental health. By encouraging online activism and at-home activities, Earth Day celebrations have been made stronger by technology.

Our Challenge to You

For Earth Day 2020, ProFocus challenged its employees to pick an action that celebrates, educates or amplifies environmental health. Many of the activities were inspired by EarthDay.Org’s 22 Days of Earth Day.

As the world faces evolving health, economic, and environmental threats, technology empowers many to safely take action, connect and learn. The challenges below are a great start towards the level of engagement needed to protect our planet.

1. Amplify Earth Day by participating in #MyPlanetMyPledge.

  • Make your pledge to a healthy planet.
  • Create a sign showing that pledge.
  • Hang that sign in your window.
  • Snap a pic and post it on social media with the hashtag, #MyPlanetMyPledge

2. Try a new plant-based meal! The food we eat is pushing the planet to the breaking point.

  • Try a new plant-based recipe. Or make an old favorite!
  • Consider adding it to your regular rotation.
  • Need ideas? Check out the yummy recipes by EarthDay.Org.

John’s plant-based meal example

3. Become a Citizen Scientist. Help experts collect and share data on the plastics and air quality in your neighborhood.

4. Get back to the basics with Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!

5. Donate to the Canopy Project.

A Better Future for All

A report by the World Economic Forum suggests most businesses understand that investing in sustainability is an “essential strategy not only for addressing the climate crisis, but also for ensuring long-term business competitiveness.” Here is the Pacific Northwest, stakeholders and businesses alike understand that our community’s health is deeply intertwined with the economic and environmental decisions made here. ProFocus believes that staying connected and empowering each other to celebrate Earth Day at Home during this pandemic is just one of the amazing ways we can each contribute to building a better future.