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It's 'Virtual' Earth Day: 50th Anniversary Arrives Despite COVID-19

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The 50th anniversary of Earth Day arrives amid stay-at-home orders, which could make it the perfect time for a backyard compost bin project. (Antranias/Pixabay)
The 50th anniversary of Earth Day arrives amid stay-at-home orders, which could make it the perfect time for a backyard compost bin project. (Antranias/Pixabay)
 By Roz Brown - Producer, Contact
April 22, 2020

RENO, Nev. -- Today marks the first time Earth Day has been celebrated virtually, and with many people still on "stay-at-home" orders, some environmental groups see a silver lining.

Until the coronavirus pandemic upended normal life, Americans spent 40% to 50% of their food costs on eating out. John Sagebiel, assistant director of the University of Nevada-Reno's Environmental Program said if nothing else, COVID-19 has made folks much more aware of how the United States' food supply chain works. And he's seeing some who have adopted new habits that could result in less waste.

"Rather than going out, they're forced to cook and therefore, they're forced to deal with, 'Oh, I can compost this, this but not that,' said Sagebiel. "I think that's an unbelievable opportunity to learn something and say, 'How can I reduce that?'"

After the first Earth Day in 1970, President Richard Nixon's White House stepped up its efforts to curtail pollution and protect the biosphere. Since 2017, however, the administration of President Donald Trump has made eliminating federal environmental regulations a priority, including rolling back water and air pollution protections.

The pandemic also has provided a dramatic picture of what can happen when there are fewer cars on the road, with satellite imagery showing air pollution levels slashed around the world.

Sagebiel believes it serves as a wake-up call: "'What's causing all that pollution? Oh, it's me! I stopped driving; the pollution went away. What are the alternatives? Well, we've got to electrify our transportation network; we've got to get away from petroleum."

Since the first Earth Day, nearly every country has failed to meet goals set by the Paris Climate Accord aimed at limiting global warming. The United States is the world's second-largest carbon emitter.

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