On Wednesday it was the 50th International Earth Day – a day for a celebration of nature and a time to consider our responsibility to protect it. I’ve been finding out more about the origins of the day and looking how it has been celebrated digitally at a time of mass isolation and social distancing.
In 1962 Rachel Carson’s book ‘Silent Spring’ highlighted the widespread use of pesticides and questioned human dominance over nature. It sold more than 500,000 copies across 24 countries and sparked a growing awareness of environmental matters. Today her work is widely acknowledged to have marked the beginning of a global environmental movement. Along with a momentum of anti war protest following the Vietnam war this led to 20 million Americans taking part in protests on the first International Earth Day in 1970.
This year’s theme is climate action with activities and events moving online. I listened in to a couple of live streaming events based in the UK.
Firstly, Manchester’s contemporary arts centre HOME ran a live discussion on Instagram with Alison Criddle the venues’ sustainability and projects co-ordinator. Home have a commitment to sustainable practice across the whole of the organisation. One of their many green initiatives is housing honeybee hives on it’s rooftop which Alison now checks daily via a webcam whilst working from home. Alison talked about ways of connecting with nature as well as small actions that we can all take to reduce our carbon footprint. Manchester has a citywide shared plan to tackle the climate emergency. Manchester’s Climate Change partnership has a list of 15 actions that everyone needs to take in order to meet climate change targets, you can read them here.
On the evening of earth day The Nest Collective led by conservationist and folk singer Sam Lee presented an evocative broadcast ‘Singing with Nightingales’ live from the woods of Sussex. The performance linked a live feed of Nightingales singing their courtship song with readings from a host of writers and musicians including Simon Armitage, Robert Macfarlane, Pet Shop Boys, Bernard Butler and Seth Lakeman. The event is part of the collective’s ‘NestFlix ‘ programme of broadcasts which reimagines the work of Nest collective, bringing to people’s homes digitally.
Both Home and the Nest Collective are demonstrating how the arts can draw attention to environmental issues and help us to feel more connected with nature.
Since lockdown I’ve been lucky to be able to more spend time in nature on the public footpaths near to my home as well as in my garden. I’ve spent much more time than usual on solitary walks in nature and I am noticing more detail. I’ve been observing daily and weekly changes, flowers opening, trees coming to life and insects.
I’ve also been enjoying learning more about nature with the delightful Self Isolating Bird Club created by Chris Packham and his stepdaughter Megan McCubbin. Via Twitter, YouTube and Facebook they are streaming from the New Forest live each morning from Monday to Friday. With nature updates and observations and a wealth of live and prerecorded nature expert guests who are reporting from their homes. The idea behind it to provide, ‘a bit of light nature relief during tough times’. This week they were joined by naturalist and conservationist Lucy Lapwing who gave an easy guide to remember the song of common garden birds. A blackbird is like an old man whistling, a robin, like a child doing an impression of him and a great tit sounds like a squeaky air bed being blown up! I’m looking forward to testing my new found knowledge….