As Earth Day turns 50, Silicon Valley leaders celebrate virtually
Green Foothills and other local climate activists celebrated the 50th anniversary of Earth Day Wednesday afternoon. The event pulled hundreds of attendees. Photo by Loan-Anh Pham.

Not even a pandemic can stop Silicon Valley from celebrating Earth Day, hundreds of residents and local leaders proved Wednesday.

Nearly 700 attendees tuned in for an Earth Day Zoom call hosted by environmental advocacy group, Green Foothills, where speakers from youth activists to politicians talked about local environmental protection efforts and the extent of the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on the climate change movement.

“I’ve got hope, I’ve got hope,” Chris Reed sang in his rendition of “This Land is your Land,” which kicked off the webinar commemorating Earth Day’s 50th anniversary — this year celebrated indoors and virtually.

“This is a very unusual time for all of us, but at the same time when we look up at the skies and we see the world around us, it’s … as clear and clean as I’ve certainly seen in decades,” said Assemblymember Ash Kalra, who moderated the event. “The need we have for community advocacy (is) to ensure that even as we get past this point of crisis, we continue to move forward.”

Green Foothills’s Executive Director Megan Fluke said the “power of community” is crucial in building a climate-resilient region. Green Foothills is a grassroots organization that has worked to protect nearly 200,000 acres of open space, natural resources and farmland in the San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, Fluke added.

“Nature is essential,” she said. “Even if many of our parks are closed right now, they are still protecting us, our forests are still cleaning our air. Our wetlands are still protecting us against sea-level rise, and our local farms are still feeding us today.”

Amah Mutsun Tribal Band Chairman Valentin Lopez said his tribe is still fighting a battle to protect Juristac, the Amah Mutsun’s “most sacred” site. Juristac is the proposed Santa Clara County site for the Sargent Quarry project, a 320-acre sand and gravel mining operation.

“The highest form of ceremonies were held there, and we did that for thousands of years,” Lopez said. “Throughout our history… our people studied the environment, studied how to take care of migrating geese, migrating salmon, how to take care of the grizzly bear, the elk…

“We must stop the destruction of Native American cultures, bands, tribes and peoples,” Lopez added.

Coyote Valley is pictured at sunrise in this file photo. Photo courtesy of Open Space Authority.

Following Lopez’s call to protect Juristac were calls from Silicon Valley Youth Climate Strike’s leaders to continue protecting Coyote Valley. The San Jose City Council approved a historic $93 million deal to preserve the 7,400 acres of land last November.

“I find a lot of hope in the work that land conservation groups are doing,” said Jamie Minden, a junior from St. Francis High School. “We at Silicon Valley Youth Climate Strike are proud to join the Coyote Valley coalition because we are stronger together.”

Hoai-An Truong, a San Jose resident and tech support worker, said she heard about the event through her work with Mothers Out Front South Bay.

“I don’t have children, but my extended family is extremely important to me,” Truong told San José Spotlight. “I’m very concerned about the children’s future. I’m very glad to see so many organizations get involved in virtual Earth Day celebrations, events, calls to action, teach-ins. COVID-19 shows us the whole world can mobilize to address a global threat like the climate crisis.”

But Earth Day goes beyond one day of celebration, former congressman and co-founder of the holiday, Pete McCloskey said Wednesday.

“Instead of Earth Day being on Apr. 22, I’d like for you to consider that it’ll be November 3, 2020,” he said. “As for what happens in government, you have your choice.”

Contact Loan-Anh Pham at [email protected] or follow @theLoanAnhLede on Twitter.

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