Tatra National Park, Poland

Tatra National Park, Poland

1970 was a big year for the environmental movement in the United States. Republican President Richard Nixon founded the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and fifty years ago this week the first Earth Day was held, sparking the birth of the modern environmental movement.

20 million people across the country participated in the world’s first Earth Day in 1970, but this year’s Earth Day will be a bit different. Due to stay-at-home orders and social distancing, the worldwide gatherings have been canceled and events and activities have moved online, which means everyone can still participate.

So, how will you celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Earth Day?

Produced by Kurt Gardinier



  • 12:51:04

    KOJO NNAMDI1970 was a big year for the environmental movement in the United States. President Richard Nixon, a Republican, founded the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA. And 50 years ago to the day, the first Earth Day was held, which sparked the birth of the modern environmental movement. Twenty million Americans participated in the first ever Earth Day in 1970, but today's Earth Day is a little bit different.

  • 12:51:28

    KOJO NNAMDIDue to stay-at-home orders and social distancing, there will be no massive gatherings, but rather a shift to online events and activities, which means everyone can still participate. Joining me to discuss this is Khadija Khokhar, a freshman at George Washington University and cofounder of Zero Hour D.C., a sister chapter of the national organization Zero Hour. Khadija, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:51:52

    KHADIJA KHOKHARHi, Kojo. Thank you for having me. Happy Earth Day.

  • 12:51:54

    NNAMDIHappy Earth Day to you. The last time you were on the program, you were working with Friday's for Future, which you recently left to cofound the D.C. chapter of Zero Hour. Why did you leave Friday's for Future, and what have you been working on with Zero Hour D.C.?

  • 12:52:12

    KHOKHARYeah, so one of the bigger reasons why I left Fridays for Future was I didn't see the same concerns that I had regarding inclusivity and intersectionality being addressed in the climate crisis. So, although most environmental organizations are out here and they are fighting for a better future, a lot of times marginalized communities and people in the forefronts are left behind.

  • 12:52:35

    KHOKHARAnd so one of the driving reasons why I helped cofound Zero Hour D.C. was that, in D.C., I didn't see any organization that was doing just that. And so Zero Hour D.C. is a woman-of-color-led environmental organization. And we really try to prioritize getting the frontline communities out in D.C. in our communities.

  • 12:53:01

    NNAMDIHow are you and your newly found organization celebrating the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, and what was originally planned?

  • 12:53:09

    KHOKHARYeah, so it's incredibly weird, to be completely honest, celebrating Earth Day from home. Our original plans were a global climate strike. So, today would've been the next global climate strike, similar to the one on September 20th, that I spoke to you about. And Zero Hour D.C. actually had taken an initiative on that. None of the organizations around D.C. had yet jumped onto organizing, so we were the lead organizers.

  • 12:53:38

    KHOKHARAnd it was a bit of a letdown. I mean, of course, everyone stay at home, social distance if you can. And the pandemic is a crisis, and should be treated as one. But there was so much momentum and work that we had put into the climate strike. And so, from that to within a week everyone having to get up and leave and go home, stay-at-home orders, a lot of our members are college students. In D.C., there are about seven colleges, so we had a lot of college students, including myself, who had to go back home, out of state.

  • 12:54:11

    KHOKHARAnd so it definitely did play a big toll on how our Earth Day was planning on being celebrated. But, you know, you take it as it goes. And since we are a very new foundation -- a very new organization, we don't have the capacity to launch our own online campaign yet. And we rather wanted to pour our full support into other digital campaigns and help the campaigns that are already being held and be supporters and be there for them.

  • 12:54:43

    KHOKHARSo, actually, yesterday, me and the other cofounder, Jansikwe, we were able to be a part of We Don't Have Time's online broadcast for Earth week to talk about our organizing. And they're a great initiative, and every day they're doing a different programming. I suggest everyone who's listening checks it out. On Monday, they did finance. Yesterday was circular economy and consumption. And then today is big ideas in education. Tomorrow is food and agriculture and Friday is local government. So, it's just great different ways that everyone is trying to get some sort of engagement and interaction on Earth Day. And I'm so glad to be able to be a part of it.

  • 12:55:27

    NNAMDIWell, right now, you're home in Michigan, away from D.C. and G.W. What things are you doing to accomplish the goals of your organization there?

  • 12:55:34

    KHOKHARYeah. So, we, right now, are trying to kind of restructure and look at the situation we're in right now and how do we want to move forward. Because our immediate goals that we had for Earth Day were not able to be fulfilled, obviously. So, what Zero Hour D.C. is trying to do is we're trying to organize our efforts around helping rebuild local communities.

  • 12:55:58

    KHOKHARAnd we're still having discussions on that, but do we want to provide to food banks, do we want to give financial support? How do we want to help local communities? Because before anything we are a local organization and we want to stand with the communities in D.C. that are most heavily impacted right now with this pandemic. And we want to make sure that we are there as a helping hand, and that we are a support system that people can go to when needed.

  • 12:56:28

    NNAMDILet's talk politics in the minute we have left. Zero Hour endorsed Bernie Sanders for president, but as of now, it's looking very likely that it'll be a race between Joe Biden and Donald Trump. Are you satisfied with either of the plans these candidates have to combat climate change?

  • 12:56:43

    KHOKHARNo. I definitely think that if Joe Biden wants the vote of my generation, he needs to be prioritizing this crisis like it is one. Although he has said he will rejoin the Paris Climate Accord and cooperate in order to reduce global emissions, he isn't treating the climate crisis with the urgency it needs. He has far looser lines for cutting greenhouse gases, and he's proposing one-10th of the government spending on the crisis compared to Bernie Sanders.

  • 12:57:17

    KHOKHARSo, although he's showing that he's trying to have a middle ground, we as a generation...

  • 12:57:23

    NNAMDII'm interrupting only, because we're out of time. Khadija Khokhar is a freshman at George Washington University and cofounder of Zero Hour D.C., a sister chapter of the national organization Zero Hour. Thank you for joining us. Good luck to you.

  • 12:57:38

    NNAMDIThis segment on celebrating the 50th anniversary of Earth Day was produced by Kurt Gardinier. Our conversation with Esther Safran Foer on her new memoir was produced by Lauren Markoe. And our discussion with local Olympic hopefuls was produced by Cydney Grannan.

  • 12:57:52

    NNAMDIComing up tomorrow, Reverend Timothy Cole was D.C.'s patient zero for COVID-19. The rector of Christ Church in Georgetown offers his thoughts on getting through the hard times. Plus, how are law enforcement officers dealing with crime during the pandemic, and what trends are we seeing in the District's crime rates? That all starts tomorrow, at noon. Until then, thank you for listening and stay safe. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

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