Thoughtful Thursday Virtual Resources

Thoughtful Thursday: Celebrate Earth Day by Creating

Get inspired this Earth Day by environmental artists of the past and present.

Yesterday, millions of people across the globe came together (digitally) to appreciate the environment on the 50th annual Earth Day. In honor of our beautiful planet, we are taking today to celebrate the amazing artists and writers who share their respect for the environment through their work. From documenting life as we know it, to promoting activism, to envisioning the future, artists and writers have created work that prompts people to acknowledge, respect, and discuss the earth and our impact on it. 

The first Earth Day in 1970 was created in response to a growing awareness about environmental concerns. Eight years earlier, in 1962, scientist and author Rachel Carson published the eye-opening book Silent Spring. Documenting the effects of widespread pesticide use on the environment, Silent Spring brought discussions of environmental concerns to the attention of the American public and began changing the conversation from conservationism to environmentalism. 

Crude oil and gas bubbling to the surface of the water surrounding Union Oil’s Platform A. (Photo courtesy of Bud Bottoms via KCRW)

Then, in January 1969, millions of gallons of oil spilled into the water off the coast of Santa Barbara, California. The 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill spurred environmental activists to take action, including Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson who was inspired to create a national teach-in day dedicated to environmentalism. This idea grew into the nation’s first ever Earth Day the following year. Footage and now well-known photos of the oil spill were critical in helping Americans across the country understand the gravity of the disaster. Artist and activist Bud Bottoms not only shared iconic photos of the oil spill, but went on to find the grassroots group Get Oil Out! and dedicate his career to sculpting marine mammals.

Volunteers attempt to rescue wildlife covered in oil from the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill. (Photo courtesy of Bud Bottoms via KCRW)

Since the first Earth Day in 1970, many artists and writers have devoted their work to the broad category of environmental art. In fact, current Earth Day organizers call for artists to share their environmental art as means to engage people’s hearts and minds in the conversation in a way that science may not. Among some of those talented artists and writers tackling environmentalism in their work are our very own Scholastic Awards students (including some of our top awarded environmental-related works from 2020, featured below!). 

Looking to engage with environmentalism in your art or writing? Here are some ideas to get started:

  1. Educate yourself: Earth Day is engaging communities around the globe to take action and share their stories. Learn more about environmentalism around the world, and how you can get involved.
  2. Explore with poetry: In honor of National Poetry Month, browse poems about the environment and climate change specifically, provided by poets.org. Maybe you’ll be inspired to create a work of your own!
  3. Get to know environmental artists: Learn about the history of environmental art and the artists who have made an impact on the genre with The Art Story.
  4. Connect creativity and science: The National Science Teachers Association’s free e-book, Creative Writing in Science: Activities That Inspire, provides tips and inspiration on how to incorporate science into your creative works, and vice versa.
  5. Scholastic Art & Writing Awards prompt: The One Earth Award, sponsored by the Salamander Fund of the Triangle Community Foundation prompts students to create work related to climate change. Consider how your work could address climate change, whatever that may mean to you: raising awareness, illustrating the impacts, exploring what individual or community action to reduce climate change could look like, etc. See the full prompt here.

Have something thoughtful to share?

Email us at ral@artandwriting.org to share your inspiration. We want to hear from you! #thoughtfulthursday

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