Earth Day is weird this year. It’s the 50th anniversary, but with the novel coronavirus pandemic, most gatherings have been canceled or postponed. Those include many Earth Day celebrations. But there is still plenty to write about.
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Earth Day was first celebrated on April 22, 1970. Since then, there has been a large push to boost awareness about issues such as climate change. (In fact, the theme this year is ‘Climate Action.’) Earth Day doesn’t always seem to be a big deal today, but 50 years ago it led to the creation of significant environmental laws.
With the pandemic forcing people to stay home more and businesses to close their doors, there have been many news stories and social media posts about clearer skies, cleaner air, less noise pollution and more as a result.
Let’s make one thing clear: I am NOT saying that the pandemic is a good thing– at all.
But it has drawn attention to the negative effects we as a society can have on the planet, and how quickly a sharp reduction in activities has improved things like air quality. It’s also created greater discussion about what we can do to lessen those negative effects when we resume our routines.
Prepare to pitch
As journalists or bloggers, we can use this information for our benefit, and for the benefit of our readers and/or listeners.
Newspapers have closed, reporters have been furloughed and some executives have had to take pay cuts. Journalism has been threatened before, but this pandemic has made it significantly harder for papers to stay afloat.
Communities need local news outlets for reliable information, to see the smaller stories larger outlets miss, and to celebrate births, honor those who die, and to take note of all of the small but meaningful events, from local plays to small business openings. The media helps keep government– including local town councils– accountable to the public.
If you’ve been laid off, need to supplement your income or are interested in building a backup stream of income, consider freelancing. Find your niche. Target local publications that may be scrambling to provide coverage on the coronavirus on top of ‘normal’ news. Consider larger publications that may accept articles your local outlets can’t use.
What topics are you interested in? Try to think of stories rather than just general ideas. Make sure you target publications likely to be interested in your article.
Earth Day article ideas
Environmental effects: How has the pandemic affected the environment in your town? You county? Your state? Are you seeing more litter in parking lots or greater amounts of packaging from residents buying more online? Is there less? Is wildlife more active? How is the air quality in your area compared to the current average, or compared to ten years ago? What is the effect of having fewer takeout boxes, cups and bags from restaurants and coffee shops? Or has the use of those containers increased as restaurants only offer takeout options?
Health benefits and detriments: How could improved air quality benefit our health? Lisa Friedman did an excellent job with this article in The New York Times, pointing out the correlation a study found between poorer air quality and higher fatalities from COVID-19. How could this knowledge help us prepare for future pandemics?
“Over all, the research could have significant implications for how public health officials choose to allocate resources like ventilators and respirators as the coronavirus spreads.”— Lisa Friedman, “New Research Links Air Pollution to Higher Coronavirus Death Rates”, The New York Times
According to the study, is your community more or less likely to see a high rate of deaths? If air pollution is a problem in your community, what do its leaders say about this research? Does this urge them to consider more measures to improve air quality? Why or why not? This is just one example of a way you can localize a national study to appeal to a publication in your area.
Keep an eye on upcoming research. You may want to subscribe to science news alerts to stay up-to-date.
Events: Were Earth Day events in your area canceled, or just postponed? For the ones that were postponed, are they considering canceling or revising their events? Organizers have planned many digital Earth Day events.
Is one of them in your area? What do event leaders hope to accomplish? Will they consider holding both in-person and digital events in the future? What were some downsides and benefits of hosting the event this way? Did they have much participation?
Activities: In addition to the digital events, what can people do to celebrate Earth Day?
Maybe you can speak to your county extension office about ways your community members can add more native and pollinator-friendly plants. What are tips for decreasing energy usage for people who are stuck at home?
Can you write an article on how to compost, build a compost bin, or perform soil tests now that more people are gardening? Maybe you can create a list of Earth Day resources for your blog, local school system, online educational website or other publishing platforms.
There are many, many, many more ways you can craft stories about the coronavirus and its effects while tying them in to environmental issues and/or Earth Day.
What stories have you written? Which stories would you like to publish?