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Local communities celebrate 50 years of Earth Day

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UNSPLASH/NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY

By Bella Butler COMMUNITY AND ENVIRONMENT EDITOR

BIG SKY—Gallatin County communities will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day on April 22, in a virtual fashion. While this Earth Day will look slightly different, some are finding ways to embrace the pandemic’s presence as a way to pay homage to the national day’s establishment.

In 1969, Sen. Gaylord Nelson witnessed a devastating oil spill in Santa Barbara, California. Around the same time, an anti-war movement had erupted across the United States, fueled by students protesting the Vietnam War.

Sen. Nelson sought to harness the energy stoking the movement and apply it to action against water and air pollution, issues recently illuminated at the time by texts like Rachel Carson’s groundbreaking “Silent Spring.”

Sen. Nelson recruited Rep. Pete McCloskey, a republican, to join him as co-chair and hired over 85 employees to promote the day and his purpose. On April 22, 1970, millions of people across the country turned out to demonstrate on behalf of environmental issues.

Prior to the first Earth Day and the years leading up to it, the effects of pollution to the environment as well as human health were little known and hardly discussed. “This planet is threatened with destruction, and we who live in it—with death,” said professor Barry Commoner in his Earth Day keynote address.

The CBS program that ran to recap the day, titled “Earth Day: A question of survival” was hosted by Walter Cronkite, who described the inaugural event as “a day dedicated to enlisting all the citizens of a bountiful country in a common cause of saving life from the deadly biproducts of that bounty.” 

“I think everyone is concentrated on health issues right now,” said Anne Ready, chairperson of the Gallatin Valley Earth Day Festival. “Earth day was founded 50 years ago. . .because so many people were concerned about the impacts of environmental degradation on our health.” In addition to bringing awareness to environmental issues, Ready believes this 50-year celebration has the opportunity to bring the focus and intent of Earth Day full circle in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Below are a few ways the Big Sky and Bozeman communities are celebrating the 50th anniversary of Earth Day:

Music for the Earth, April 24

Having adjusted an original plan for a live, in-person performance, the organization Gallatin Valley Earth Day shifted their Music for the Earth concert to a virtual performance, where a series of local artists will fill homes with music via the recently launched Bozeman Arts-Live! platform. Music will begin at 7:30 p.m. and last approximately 30 minutes. The line-up includes Dan Smith, Doug Wales and Jake Fleming with the Montana~Havana Bridge Project, Kate Bryan and Megan Makeever.

Films for the Earth, April 23

Also presented by Gallatin Valley Earth Day, Films for the Earth will feature two short films live streamed, also via Bozeman Arts-Live! followed by a discussion with earth activists lasting from 7:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. The lineup will include “A Letter to Congress,” a film about Wallace Stegner’s letter to Congress promoting wilderness and public lands and “A Place in the Garden,” which is the story of two couples and a federally certified hummingbird bander educating the public on pollinators and how to create a landscape to support them. The Montana State Director of the Wilderness Society will speak after the first film and Paulette Epple of the Sacajawea Audubon Society will follow the second film.

Earth Day with Visit Big Sky, April 22

In an effort to encourage visitors to the Big Sky area to make environmentally conscious choices during their trips, Visit Big Sky will post messaging and Earth Day themed images on their Facebook and Instagram for eight hours to celebrate community sustainability efforts.

Runoff Cleanoff, April 24-26

While not directly associated with Earth Day, the Runoff Cleanoff, hosted by the Big Sky Community Organization and the Gallatin River Task Force, certainly fits in with the other environmentally themed events of the week. The dog waste clean-up, which begins at 3 p.m. on April 24 and lasts until 3 p.m. on April 26, aims to encourage watershed stewardship and responsible pet ownership in the community.

Participants are asked to maintain social distancing but can interact by posting photos of their clean-up on social media and using the hashtags #doodiecalls and #runoffcleanoff. Prizes will be given to scoopers who collect the most dog waste. Supplies will be provided at the BSCO shed at the Big Sky Community Park.

Big Sky S.N.O. posting contest, April 22

The Big Sky Sustainability Network Organization will also celebrate Earth Day on social media channels. Those in the Big Sky community are encouraged to post their favorite memories in the outdoors with the hashtag #earthday and #bigskysno. Each post will be awarded a reusable bag and water bottle from the day’s sponsor, Roxy’s Market, and a 1st place winner will be selected to receive a $250 Roxy’s gift card.

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