Celebrate Earth Day 2021


Students protest at the Utah State Capitol

Emma Johnson, Associate Editor

People driving behind school buses this week may be shocked when the gargantuan vehicles spring into motion rather than creaking and groaning loud enough to wake up a neighborhood, and when the cloud of black gunk usually spewed by them is absent from the air. The child-sized passengers of the bus have a better idea of what’s going on: as of April 12, 2021, the Salt Lake City School District added its first four all-electric school buses to the fleet. These buses, which replaced diesel ones for the first time in Utah, were made affordable by grants from the Utah Department of Environmental Quality. 

Ken Martinez, school bus fleet manager for the SLCSD, says that the hope is to eventually replace 75% of the vehicles to all-electric, and that the district is considering developing solar-powered charging stations. These improvements, which are the first of many thanks to the approved resolution for 100% Clean Energy by 2030 and full carbon neutrality by 2040, have come coincidentally ten days before Earth Day.  

Earth Day, an event established in the United States in 1970, is instrumental each year in bringing unity and public awareness to the environmental conservation movement. On this day all around the world, people from all walks of life get outside to enjoy nature, learn about sustainability, complete volunteer work, create art, or celebrate in another way. 

Earthday.org claims that the event is “widely recognized as the largest secular observance in the world.” This is fitting because no matter a person’s culture and beliefs, the one thing shared by everybody is the planet we live on.  

On the very first Earth Day circa 1970, over 200 million people in 141 different countries participated in some kind of Earth Day celebrations (History.com). Ever since then, marching and rallying has been an integral part of the holiday. While some form of environmentalism has been around since the seventh century, the creation of Earth Day was monumental because it united many different people around the single cause, albeit generic.  

The magnitude of the event is staggering, but it is also quite locally pertinent. Zero in on those 141 original countries, then one out of fifty States of America, and finally down to our very own Salt Lake City. A variety of different companies and organizations have been observing Earth Day for many years, and there are many opportunities for Utahns to get involved.  

Locals may be familiar with the periodic climate strikes at the state capitol, which are observed every Friday by a select few and every several months by a large gathering. There is always a march on Earth Day. Fridays for Future Utah is the organization largely behind this, with additional support and involvement from other groups.  

Some participants have switched to virtual activism in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, but many still strike safely in person. This year’s march is on Thursday, April 22 from 2-5 pm on the steps of the Utah State Capitol. Fridaysforfutureut.org advertises “booths, speakers, and chalk art” to people interested in attending. Those who have been to similar marches before will remember group chants, inspiring speeches, and fun networking with like-minded people from all over the city.  

For those interested in attending the event, there is more information available on the websites sierraclub.org/utah and fridaysforfutureut.org, or on their respective Instagram accounts. Protests organized by these groups are often largely student-led so you will probably recognize some people you know. Reports show that youth activism has been increasing dramatically over the past years, and many teenagers think it’s a great way to get involved in the community while standing up for something they believe in.  

Those coming to the march must follow COVID-19 safety guidelines posted by the organizers and be respectful of the speakers and other attendees.