By Victoria Gehrke, Conservation Program Director
Same day, different year, but a world view ago. Last year for Earth Day, GPOCP staff and volunteers headed out to pick up trash in the local city park and created awareness about caring for our Earth and preventing pollution. For Earth Day 2020, we, along with the rest of the world, took a digital approach.
The theme for Earth Day 2020 was Climate Change. This theme is fitting after last year’s memorable and devastating fires, which ravaged much of Australia and the tropics after abnormally long dry periods and landscape alternations changed microclimate dynamics. This year, Earth Day could have been a rather isolating and lonely day, considering the global pandemic that confines most of us to our houses and restricts social contact. However, a common enemy seems to have banded people together across the globe for this one day more than ever! There were free online resources such as film clips, coloring books, games, and free webinars from environmental NGOs and zoos left, right, and center. From expert panels on the seriousness of COVID-19 risks for primates, to how to fold a lemur-shaped origami, to dance parties in your back garden! We were happy, as a small NGO, to be able to join other online activities and campaigns to learn, as well as share our own.
Our 2020 Earth day campaign took a multidimensional approach also. We had live streaming on our Indonesian Instagram about climate change, its effect locally and globally, and how to combat it. The interactive nature of social media allowed for live questions and conversations, with many people in West Kalimantan feeling the effects of climate change every day.
Our team also made some conservation awareness posters along with a downloadable “Good Habits for an Environmentally Friendly Lifestyle” checklist (so far in Indonesian only!).
Our more creative and interactive take, however, was the in-your-own-home competition, with prizes included! Participants were asked to create something useful or aesthetically pleasing using recycled goods from everyday items found in their home. The winners (locally only, sorry international followers!) will be announced May 4th and win T-shirts, reusable water bottles, tote bags and certificates.
Just two samples (below) of the entries are flowers made from old newspapers and a lampshade made from wood scraps.
Additionally, we received some nice feedback on a short video featuring local stakeholders and their words about Earth Day (including mine!). Check it out here.
My statement was “Earth day is an annual event to show support towards environmental protection and wildlife conservation. This year, it is more important than any to show unity and solidarity towards protecting the Earth’s vital ecosystems.” Both we as an organization, and I personally, were floored by the show of solidarity that came pouring through the computer screen last week! This global pandemic arose from humans constantly encroaching into wildlife habitat, from removing them and putting them in cages, from breeding them in confinement for consumption, from lack of basic welfare standards for animals, and from poor policies and follow-through on the illegal wildlife trade. It may be one or a combination of all of these that caused the world to go on pause for an indefinite period and will cause long-term effects, whether we are prepared or not. Themed days for awareness or refocusing our attention make a difference in helping people learn about new concepts, examine their own behavior, and create new solutions. More importantly, they also serve as a way to provide a community of caring for each other, or for that cause. And communities can cause a movement, and movement means change.
We are so grateful for all who interacted with us during this Earth Day, as well as those NGOs and zoos who put on their own events to share the idea that though nature might have finally bubbled over for a little, it has not forgotten us and still needs us to make good and strong choices for her (and our!) survival.
Happy Earth Day, week and month to you all! Please reach out if you have ways you’d like to help GPOCP in our digital or local work – perhaps by drawing Gunung Palung wildlife postcards as a fundraiser, creating coloring templates for kids at our education events, or making an educational poster we can share online and print for our local schools! Everything helps, and everyone is needed.