Earth Day will take a surprising turn this year by relocating to the internet. Due to the global coronavirus pandemic, events for the 50th anniversary of Earth Day on April 22 will be digital.

“At Earth Day Network, the health and safety of volunteers and participants in Earth Day events is our top concern,” said Kathleen Rogers, president of Earth Day Network. “Amid the recent outbreak, we encourage people to rise up but to do so safely and responsibly — in many cases, that means using our voices to drive action online rather than in person.”

Related: How Earth Day began and how it helps the planet

To keep track of the global Earth Day conversation across several digital platforms, participants will use the hashtags #EarthDay2020 and #EarthRise. Interested people can follow Earth Day Network’s social media accounts (@earthdaynetwork) for live coverage. Individuals and groups may also participate in environment-related online teach-ins, virtual protests and social media campaigns.

Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson founded Earth Day in 1970 after a devastating oil spill off the Santa Barbara coast. He wanted to capture the energy of the student antiwar movement to shift public awareness and policy around the environment. His coalition originally chose April 22 because it fell between spring break and final exams. At the first Earth Day, 20 million Americans, or 10% of the country’s population at that time, participated in events related to environmental science.

“Our current pandemic demonstrates that governments must embrace science early,” Rogers said. “As we see now, many governments were slow to respond or even indifferent about the science of the coronavirus pandemic. But the last few weeks have also demonstrated that our society, even at the international level, is capable of mass shifts across all sectors to meet a crisis head-on. We must apply the same scale and urgency of our response to climate change.”

Because the pandemic is affecting regions in different ways, some people might choose in-person gatherings to celebrate Earth Day. People should take precautions and check current guidelines from the World Health Organization before planning or attending gatherings.

+ Earth Day

Image via NASA