ETHS honors Earth Day with events for students, Evanston residents

Celebrated each year on Apr. 22, Earth Day marks the birth of the modern environmental movement and is celebrated worldwide to raise awareness and support for environmental protection. 

Earth Day, which has begun to expand into an Earth Month for the entirety of April, began as a result of the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill, the largest oil spill the country had faced at the time.  

Junior Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson used the momentum of the spill to implement a nationwide environmental educational forum on Apr. 22, 1970. Though the first event was primarily focused on the United States, Denis Hayes, the original 1970 coordinator of the event, took Earth Day international with organized events in 141 nations.

E-Town Sunrise, a youth group that is part of a larger organization consisting of hubs all over the country, is dedicated to climate advocacy and climate justice initiatives throughout local communities and at a national level. The group is planning a series of events to celebrate and draw attention to Earth Month.  

The week of Earth Day, E-Town Sunrise is planning two large-scale events, one of which being the first ETHS climate justice conference, on April 20.

“[The conference] is going to be an opportunity for both education about the climate crisis and engagement with it. We’re working on both the science of climate change and its intersection with social issues and systemic injustice around the world,” said E-Town Sunrise communications coordinator Emmet Ebels-Duggan. 

The conference will be during the first half of the school day as well as during 8th period. Breakout sessions will be available and will offer a range of options for students to attend different groups such as Climate Crisis 101, Environmental Justice and Art and Expression.

For the second part of the event, E-Town Sunrise is partnering with the ETHS Climate Crew, a team of students that are a part of the Emerge leadership program at ETHS is planning an event on April 20. Called “Conversations On Climate,” the event will feature various local elected officials like Mayor Daniel Biss, City Council members Jonathan Nieuwsma and Eleanor Revelle, in a facilitated conversation between students and elected officials on climate policy in Evanston. The event will be held in the Upstairs Theater.

“We wanted to think out of the box for this project. The original idea was that we would hold a small town hall in the Little Theater, but we realized we could go bigger in the Upstairs Theater and make it accessible for anybody who wants to come and talk to local legislators,” said Blythe Coleman, a junior on the ETHS Climate Crew.

Coleman went on to explain the details of the event, describing that students can submit questions to be asked at the event in an effort to give every student a chance to be heard. Students can take it a step further and apply to be a student speaker at the event, where they can share thoughts, opinions and propositions pertaining to the climate plan in Evanston.

“We really wanted to give a platform for both students and elected officials to have a conversation about climate change in Evanston…Something really good could come out of it,” Coleman said. 

On Earth Day itself, E-Town Sunrise is planning an 8th-block walkout, similar to the Oct. 22 event that led students to downtown Evanston to pressure Evanston officials about implementing climate action programs fully. 

“We’re going to meet outside the school by entrance one before 8th period, during that passing period, and we’re going to walk down Evanston streets. We’re going to stop by Roycemore this time and pick up a few members of the Roycemore chapter of Sunrise. We’re going to head to Fountain Square, and we’ll have some speakers and an open mic,” Ebels-Duggan said.

Aside from E-Town Sunrise, ETHS students are taking action in efforts to spread awareness of Earth Month. Some students are taking to social media, posting infographics and facts pertaining to Climate Change, while others are encouraging teachers to turn off lights for the entirety of Earth Day to conserve energy.