I had been so looking forward to attending the Fiftieth anniversary of Earth Day celebration at the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies in the University of Wisconsin, Madison. It was set to be a meticulously coordinated all-day event with leaders in the field of climate change, based around small group breakout sessions, and exhibitor tables.
Frustratingly Earth Day 2020 is today, with the celebration scheduled for April 20th, right in the middle of the COVID-19 outbreak. It could have been a lost opportunity. Instead, the organizers quickly shifted the celebration to a virtual event, casting a much wider net for those interested in attending. What a beautiful example of how great planning, evidence-based content, and passionate people can overcome adversity.
It’s interesting how the COVID-19 crisis has challenged all of us to cast a wider net, to develop creative connections, in a social distancing environment, without losing our passion. Universities and publishers have been challenged to move in-person, traditional classrooms and labs, to virtual education in the middle of the academic year. Though the move towards digital access options of educational resources has been well under development and available to some degree, (eBooks, learning management systems, inclusive access initiatives, and open education resources), faculty and students were abruptly thrust into a virtual campus experience.
Cambridge University Press is “both sides of the same coin” – one side is that we are part of the University of Cambridge, a provider of higher education. The other side is that we are the University’s non-profit publishing division, dedicated to sharing knowledge and learning. Our virtual response to student and faculty needs – by providing content in digital delivery – is helping to address the sudden shift to virtual instruction, as well as reducing our carbon footprint, and lowering the cost to students.
Observing the global response to COVID-19 with stay-at-home initiatives, we’ve seen how quickly the environment has benefited from less traffic. For example, air pollution in the San Francisco Bay Area has seen a big drop. While there are certainly factors threatening the environment because of the pandemic, it has truly been a breath of fresh air to witness the creative ways that passionate people are evolving their Earth Day 2020 celebrations and their working environments with social distancing.
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