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From Earth Day to Everyday Action: Extension Tackles Climate Challenges

The History of Earth Day

Earth Day was launched in 1970. Many factors contributed to the call for a national day focusing on environmental stewardship, including the publication of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring - serialized in the New Yorker - and the catastrophic oil spill that occurred off the coast of Santa Barbara in 1969. The Santa Barbara oil spill galvanized U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson (D-Wisconsin) to call for a national day of locally inspired and organized "teach-ins" on the environment - a national "Earth Day." The Earth Day model was inspired by the spirit of campus activism at the nation's colleges and universities. It wasn't top-down, but rather a grassroots effort that encouraged communities to develop educational and service events around issues and topics important to them.

Earth Day struck a chord; some estimates suggest that 1 in 10 Americans participated in the first events. Earth Day is widely credited with "sparking" the modern environmental movement. Landmark environmental legislation swiftly followed (including the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act). The Environmental Protection agency was founded that same year. Twenty years after its launch, Earth Day became a global movement. Increasingly, Earth Day activities are focused on the impacts a changing climate has on communities.

You can learn more from the Earth Day Network by linking to this website.

Take part. Learn. Act.

From Awareness to Action: Extension Works to Address Climate Challenges

A changing climate impacts all of us, and Extension is taking action. In 2021, Extension Directors identified climate change as one of seven priority areas for CES and partnered with Extension Foundation to provide national leadership on the subject. Extension Foundation—in partnership with USDA and Iowa State University—held a Climate Action Convening from Jan. 31-Feb. 1, 2024, in Tucson, Ariz., gathering with more than 40 Extension professionals who served as ambassadors for the larger system. Learn more about the Convening here.

The New Technologies for Ag Extension (NTAE) is a grant from USDA NIFA in partnership with the University of New Hampshire. The Extension Foundation invited project and program teams aligned with USDA and Extension Committee on Organization and Policy (ECOP) strategic goals/priority program areas (including climate) to apply for funding and support from the Extension Foundation through September 21, 2024. 22 projects were selected. A number of the projects selected focus on climate including projects that address climate resiliency and adaptation in agriculture, identifying climate change programming for children, and developing animated pollinator videos to educate youth. We look forward to sharing more information about these projects in our upcoming 2024 NTAE Yearbook, which will be published in the fall.

In the meantime, learn more about one of this year’s NTAE projects that focuses on climate by reading this article: Celebrating Culture & Pollinators: Animated Series Honors Native Languages, Provides Science Education. The article links to a wonderful YouTube video featuring “pollinator superheroes.”

ECOP Climate Program Action Team Update at Program Center Stage - Register Now

Climate Program Action Team (PAT) leaders Jason Henderson and Roy Beckford, and Extension Foundation’s Regan Emmons are excited to host a special Earth Day Program Center Stage! Join us for an informative session to hear about the Climate PAT's recent efforts and their next focus for engaging Cooperative Extension in climate work. The program will be held on Monday April 22nd at 2 p.m. EST.

In this session, discover the latest initiatives and strategies from the Climate PAT as they share insights from the recent Climate Convening. This gathering brought together leaders from across Cooperative Extension to address a fundamental question: "How can we mobilize the U.S. Cooperative Extension system to swiftly and effectively contribute to climate change solutions?" This Convening strengthened the climate-focused network within Cooperative Extension and developed climate action outcomes for Extension.As we reflect on the achievements of the Climate Convening, you are invited to help in outlining the next steps for the Climate PAT. Don't miss this opportunity to explore Cooperative Extension's vital role in fostering a sustainable and resilient future. Register here to join us!

Submitted by Melanie Pugsley and Rose Hayden-Smith

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About the Extension Foundation

The Extension Foundation was formed in 2006 by Extension Directors and Administrators. Today, the Foundation partners with Cooperative Extension through liaison roles and a formal plan of work with the Extension Committee on Organization and Policy (ECOP) to increase system capacity while providing programmatic services, and helping Extension programs scale and investigate new methods and models for implementing programs. The Foundation provides professional development to Cooperative Extension professionals and offers exclusive services to its members. In 2020 and 2021, the Extension Foundation has awarded 85% of its direct funding back to the Cooperative Extension System, 100% of funds are used to support Cooperative Extension initiatives. 

This technology is supported in part by New Technologies for Ag Extension (funding opportunity no. USDA-NIFA-OP-010186), grant no. 2023-41595-41325 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or the Extension Foundation. For more information, please visit You can view the terms of useat

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