On Wednesday, April 22nd, the world celebrated the 45th annual Earth Day. Of course, every day is Earth Day, and technically it has celebrated about 4.54 billion of them, but it’s important to have a special day honoring what it gives us, and recognizing that we need to take much better take care of it in turn. For more on that, check out this video for a helpful visual:
In New York City alone, there were countless events, rallies, and speeches: Mayor de Blasio’s unveiling of his One New York Plan, the Earth Day fair at Union Square Park, and the call by over 70 groups for a 100% clean energy New York by 2030, to name a few. While we wish we could have gone to all of them, we were lucky enough to attend the New School Tishman Environmental Design Center’s (TEDC) first annual Earth Day Celebration, and the National Wildlife Federation’s Eco-Schools Sustainability Gathering at the Urban Assembly School for Green Careers.
TEDC launched in 2005, with an ambitious interdisciplinary undergraduate Environmental Studies degree program. It also focuses on applying the University’s design and social justice goals to the climate change movement, including the launch of the University’s first Climate Action Week as a lead up to the People’s Climate March (and btw - consider getting involved in the People’s Climate Movement of New York!).
TEDC’s invited the Human Impacts Institute to table at its first internship fair as part of the event. The day culminated in a keynote presentation by Rhea Suh, President of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and a creative presentation and musical performance by DJ Spooky.
But it’s not just graduate centers changing the environment educational landscape! HII also had the opportunity to hear about the National Wildlife Foundation (NWF) innovative eco-schools initiative at a gathering of sustainability coordinators.
The Eco-Schools program was started in 1994 by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) with support by the European Commission, and strives to model environmentally sound practices, provide support for greening the curriculum and enhance science and academic achievement. You can check out this map of Eco-Schools (New York State currently has 341 participating schools), and learn more about getting your school involved here.
The event was held at The Urban Assembly School for Green Careers (UAGC) (pictured at right). UAGC was formed in response to President Obama’s push for expanded vocational opportunities for high school students, and the need to ensure the U.S. stays competitive in the rapidly growing ‘green jobs’ market.
The school offers several innovative programs for its 300 students, including in the emerging fields of sustainable agriculture and building science.
The presentation also included a special tour of the school’s rainwater harvesting system (pictured at left) and its 47kW solar roof - which results in about 140,000 pounds of CO2 emissions reductions each year. Solar roofs are (pardon the pun) heating up in New York City, especially with Mayor de Blasio’s 2014 announcement that the City will fund solar installations in 24 schools, tripling the amount of solar currently planned on City-owned buildings.
And as the sun set on the 45th Earth Day Celebration, this tulip (and yes, we know it’s not a native species) reminded us that, even through glass skyscrapers or brick walls, pollution and polluting conflicts and all the other damage we're doing, the earth - our earth - will find a way through.
“You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” – Jane Goodall