Wednesday marked the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day. If you head to the official Earth Day 2020 website, you'll find a map of the world that looks like it's been, ironically, littered with confetti. There are pink, brown, green, blue, yellow, red, white, and grey dots covering much of the globe-at least the higher populated regions. And if you scan over the United States and Canada, you'll find a lonely green dot hovering over the Aleutian Island chain. Zoom in closer, and you'll see that that little green chunk of confetti happens to sit squarely over Unalaska.
The map chronicles digital Earth Day events happening around the globe. Outside of Kuala Lumpur, a sprinkle the shade of burnt sienna represents a climate crisis webinar, and above Tartu, Estonia, a mustard dot denotes an environmental education center's annual Earth Day conference, now web-based. Over Unalaska, the single green sphere of confetti indicates a window decorating event hosted by the Qawalangin Tribe.
"We are sponsoring a window decorating event. We're hoping that people can find a street-facing window in their house or business and decorate it. And the theme is climate action," explained Chandra Poe, the new environmental director for the Qawalangin Tribe. "We're hoping people can use materials they already have on hand or stuff that they actually find outside, thinking about the concept of reduce, reuse, recycle, while they are doing their decorations."
Families and households are encouraged to take pictures of their window decorations and submit them online by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or to post them onto the tribe's event page on Facebook. Submissions will eventually be assessed by a panel of judges.
The top three contestants will be awarded prizes, which include gift cards to Unalaska's Museum of the Aleutians. While she is excited to provide awards, Poe hopes that participating families and households will take away more than just prizes.
"I would hope that it keeps going with discussions between families and in households of why there's an Earth Day," said Poe. "What does the theme 'climate action' mean? What does your family see? What have some [climate] changes been? And how you might feel about them, how you might think of ways to respond to them."
Poe recognized the importance of taking some time to pause and appreciate the unique moment and environment Alaskans currently occupy. She anticipates that this event will get community members outside to explore ways of using and inhabiting their environment, but to also consider new ways of building communities and starting important conversations.
Due to social distancing and other public safety measures in response to the coronavirus pandemic, public events across the globe are being heavily altered, postponed, or simply cancelled. Poe, the Qawalangin Tribe, and others celebrating Earth Day this year are not exempt from these added challenges. But with innovative events such as this one, the tribe appears eager to step up to the challenge by rethinking ways of building solidarity and helping the community get outside.
"I think it would be a really nice thing on Earth Day to be able to go with your household and move around town and see the different windows," said Poe. "And it's a nice, safe way to think about Earth Day, do some celebrating, and think about the environment, and maybe just give us a little bit of a different focus for a little bit since everybody's got a lot on their minds these days."
Kate Arduser, wellness program manager at the Qawalangin Tribe, said her family plans to piece together some ocean-themed decorations. She looks forward to reflecting on some of the traditional Unangax̂ values, as she helps her family represent their natural environment. Overall, Arduser hopes this will be an opportunity for communities to share their gratitude.
"I just love that idea of connection, especially in times when you can't sit near someone," said Arduser. "The idea that our little window can be a connection to the whole world feels good right now."
The Qawalangin Tribe will be accepting window decoration submissions through Wednesday, April 22. Find more information about the event on the tribe's Facebook event page or on KUCB.org.