Earth Week 2020 Recap

Monday, April 27, 2020

Stanford recognized the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day and Stanford’s thriving culture of sustainability with a series of virtual events throughout Earth Week, April 20-24. The events offered opportunities for attendees to learn about and connect with the university’s sustainability programs and welcomed a diverse global audience.  

Highlights of the week included two virtual panels, both of which introduced sustainability experts and shared common themes of climate education and how to enact behavior change.

The first panel was hosted by the Woods Institute for the Environment and focused on the progress that has been made since the first Earth Day 50 years ago as well commentary for what the next 50 years could hold. The panel included remarks from people who participated in the first Earth Day celebration on Stanford’s campus in 1970, including alumnus Denis Hayes, who was one of the original organizers of Earth Day.

To approach the future, panelists emphasized the importance of new technologies and stronger policy. Ken Alston, Director of Mobility and Energy Storage for New Energy Nexus and CalCEF Ventures, said, “I think we’re all working towards thinking about what are the solutions we’re going to need to meet a net-zero target in 2050, and there are technologies that are not yet feasible today but they may be feasible down the road and so that’s really the type of thinking we need, a multi-decade approach.”

The Office of Sustainability’s virtual panel echoed many of the same sentiments but focused more closely on climate resiliency and action planning. The panel featured regional and state sustainability leaders, including Stanford experts, who stressed the need for collective action and collaboration among individuals and organizations.

To ensure collaboration, panelists discussed the importance of strong policies and shared information to protect vulnerable assessments and communities in the face of climate change. For example, Nuin-Tara Key, Deputy Director of Climate Resilience for California Governor’s Office of Planning and Research, explained that the state uses a clearinghouse database to incorporate climate adaption and resilience into policy, which the public can access.

Both events touched on the connections between climate change and the ongoing pandemic, illustrating the importance of climate resiliency. Russell Furr, Associate Vice Provost for Environmental Health and Safety, who has been leading Stanford’s COVID-19 response, spoke during the second summit and highlighted the importance of behavior change and how one decision can have a domino effect.

The panels ended on common notes – stressing the importance of collective coordination and how acting locally but thinking globally can have a positive impact.

Additional events throughout the week featured interactive virtual sessions, including a virtual Earth Day short film screening, an Earth Day podcast, and living lab tours of wastewater and stormwater facilities on campus. The School of Earth’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion also hosted a virtual discussion about environmental justice and public land conservation.

View the Earth Week sessions here.