Earth Day celebrations take on new look amid COVID-19 pandemic

Jessie Norwood and Olivia Perkins

As quarantine stretches on for people around the world, scientists are noticing the remarkable effect staying at home is having on wildlife. With more people staying in and animals coming out, Earth Day became a time to celebrate this phenomenon. District 225 students came together to appreciate the Earth from the comfort of their couches. Lisa Pavic, an AP Environmental Science teacher at South, hopes that these effects will show people how much harm has been brought to Earth and its systems.

As people remain locked in, animals and wildlife have become less shy and more prevalent in what were busy cities. Places like downtown Chicago and San Francisco are experiencing animals walking among the sidewalks where people used to roam. 

Coyotes have meandered along downtown Chicago’s Michigan Avenue and near San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. A puma roamed the streets of Santiago, Chile. Goats took over a town in Wales,” Seth Borenstein, reporter for the Chicago Tribune, wrote in an article published on April 22. While animal sightings are increasing, the number of pollutants in the air have dropped, the Chicago Tribune said. Scientists have noted that air pollution levels in cities like Rome have decreased by almost 50 percent.

There’s some silver lining for wildlife in what otherwise is a fairly catastrophic time for humans,” David Godfrey, executive director of the Sea Turtle Conservancy, said to the Chicago Tribune

Pavic hopes this time can be used for reflection. But, she wishes that this “healing” did not come at the price of job losses and lives. She hopes that as a result of the effects, rules and regulations can be placed to help both the Earth and our ways of life.

“Perhaps this helps us pause— literally— so that we see that we are capable of rolling back our emissions, but can figure out a way to do it that still sustains our economy,” Pavic said.

Although South was unable to put together a celebration because of quarantine, students have still found their own ways to get involved and celebrate the day while also taking part in the #stayhome movement. The South Instagram has been highlighting students’ lives at home. From Outdoors Club all the way to the virtual AP Art show, students have demonstrated that social distancing and a global pandemic won’t stop them from safely enjoying the end of their school year. 

North experienced your not-so-typical virtual Earth Day celebration on April 22. Together, North participated in something unique while also being miles away from each other.  A widespread email was sent out, giving students and staff the option to look in on different Zoom presentations with guest speakers, examples of sustainable actions and videos submitted by students and staff. Ali Fairchild, the Chicago Director at Factory Farming Awareness Coalition (FFAC), gave a presentation over Zoom to students and staff about the importance of sustainable farming and plant-based diets.

“What we choose to eat is the single most impactful action we can take against climate change,” Fairchild said.

In addition to Fairchild, Jennifer Linton from the Climate Reality Project Chicago and North alum Abby Hornberger held a Zoom to discuss ways the students could create change. While using the theme of “What Would Ferris Do?” as a reference to the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Hornberger and her mother taught the importance of respecting Planet Earth while also tying in one of the North Shore’s favorite movies. Viewers were able to get in a laugh over a topic that may be hard to talk about. 

“We are social beings and while there are benefits [for Planet Earth] it is challenging for our society to not have the ability to interact face-to-face.” Jeff Rylander, instructional supervisor of the Science Department, said. “I think we have taken many things for granted. I am sure our practices will change as we figure out what the new ‘normal’ will become.”