8 ways to get active on Earth Day

An illustration of Earth covered with a whale, people, hibiscus, endangered animals, a COVID-19 vaccine and more
EarthX 2021 will screen films and events for a week to mark Earth Day.
(EarthX 2021)

By Mary Forgione

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Welcome to The Wild!

The first Earth Day was celebrated on April 22, 1970. Nowadays, happenings are sprinkled throughout April and combined with other events, such as National Park Week. Many people (I’m one of them) believe that every day is Earth Day. So give some thought to how you want to mark the day because climate change is the defining environmental threat of our time. Here are eight events not to miss.


1. President Biden and 40 world leaders will discuss climate change — and you’re invited. In case you haven’t been following along, President Biden rejoined the Paris Agreement (a 2016 international treaty that seeks to limit global warming) on the first day he was in office. Later, Biden set a time for leaders to join him in an international summit “to galvanize efforts by the major economies to tackle the climate crisis,” according to a White House statement. That time is now. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, China’s President Xi Jinping and France’s President Emmanuel Macron are expected to attend the livestreamed Leaders Summit on Climate on April 22-23.

2. Join an L.A. Times Festival of Books panel discussion about science, nature and how many mysteries remain in the wild. Meet the storytellers who take us along on adventures about some of science’s most puzzling questions — and what they’ve learned about themselves along the way. Authors Jonathan Meiburg (“A Most Remarkable Creature”), Lulu Miller (“Why Fish Don’t Exist”) and Jonathan C. Slaght (“Owls of the Eastern Ice”) join me to talk about “Science and Nature: From the Page to Wilder Places.” It’s free and available online at 2 p.m. April 23. Learn more and sign up here.

3. Get schooled by Al Gore on how to be an effective climate champion. Yep, he’s still at it. Since the film “An Inconvenient Truth” was released in 2006, former Vice President Al Gore has continued to create a network of “world changers working to solve the climate crisis and build a just and healthy future for the Earth,” according to the project’s website. Gore founded the Climate Reality Project to train anyone who wants to learn about the climate crisis and what role they can play. Training is virtual — four days of two-hour live broadcasts and other sessions — between April 22 and May 2. It’s free and open to all; click here to learn more.

National Park Week logo.
(National Park Service)

4. Visit America’s natural landscape during National Park Week, April 17-25. Pick a park, any park, during the week designated in 2013 to appreciate the planet. Nine national parks call California home; the closest one is Joshua Tree, 140 miles from downtown L.A. Need more incentive? Parks that charge fees will be free on April 17, meaning you can skip the $25 or $30 entrance cost. National Park Week includes themed days such as Park Rx Day (April 17), which points to the mental and physical benefits of being outdoors, and Volunteer Sunday (April 18), which thanks those who donate their time to work on projects. Parks usually schedule events in April but the coronavirus pandemic has pushed many activities online. You can virtually visit parks here and consider these themes for each day of the week.

National Geographic Earth Day Eve poster

5. Sign on for an Earth Day Eve concert with eco-icons and musical performances. National Geographic brings it all together for a free online concert in honor of Earth Day. Travel influencer Jessica Nabongo plays host to musicians performing around the world, including Angélique Kidjo, Rostam, Willie Nelson, Yo-Yo Ma and Ziggy Marley. Scientist and conservationist Jane Goodall and other environmentalists will appear as well. The show begins at 5:30 p.m. Pacific time on April 21. Stick around for the afterparty (7 p.m. April 21) on TikTok Live (@NatGeo), when Jayda G. spins music to scenes from Disney’s new series “Earth Moods.” Watch at National Geographic YouTube or

6. Check out’s global livestream event featuring Pope Francis, eco-activists and performers. Last year, 8.5 million people tuned in for the first digital event sponsored by the nonprofit dedicated to environmental awareness. This year’s panel discussions, films and musical performances will explore “the natural processes, emerging green technologies and innovative thinking that can restore the world’s ecosystems,” according to a statement. Pope Francis, Environmental Protections Agency administrator Michael Regan, the band AJR, actors Kristin Bell and Mary Steenburgen and 25 others will participate. “Earth Day Live: Restore Our Earth” is free and open to all. The event takes place at 9 a.m. Pacific time on April 22 at and on its social media channels.

7. Watch enviro-films and join discussions during EarthX 2021 events. This weeklong mostly virtual festival will host a health and environment panel and conservation talks with experts, plus show 14 feature and short films on environmental issues. The big film debut: “Percy vs. Goliath,” about a farmer fighting Big Ag, stars Christopher Walken, Adam Beach, Christina Ricci and Zach Braff. Filmmaker talks follow some screenings and prizes are awarded. An Earth Day Health and Environment Panel features speakers from the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who will talk about “preventing global health pandemics by restoring nature,” according to a statement. More talks on eco-themes are set throughout the week, along with programs for youth, including a new weekly show filmed in South Africa called “Kids in Conservation” on EarthxTV. Check out EarthX’s full schedule for events April 16-25.

8. Clean up your favorite park, beach, forest trail or any special spot — and brag about it. Each American generates about 5 pounds of garbage every day, with 1.51 pounds being recycled, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Too much seems to get left behind on beaches, forest areas, trails and other green spaces. (Read this item about the Angeles National Forest’s problems.) During April, the Great Global CleanUp 2021 (register a cleanup here) asks people around the world to join or create a group (it can be your COVID-19 bubble). Then tag your posts #trashtag #EarthDay2021 on social media to encourage others to do likewise. “Hold the event. Be a good volunteer, have fun, be social and safe,” the guidelines say. You can upload photos and videos of your efforts to the site too. Register here for the Great Global CleanUp.

3 things to do this week

Illustration of birds with spa turbans and cucumber slices on their eyes
Relaxation day with the birds?
(Micah Fluellen / Los Angeles Times; Getty Images)

1. Sign up for an ornitherapy session at Madrona Marsh Preserve in Torrance. Birder and photographer Richard Crossley co-authored the book about ornitherapy that’s described as “bridging the gap between bird ID and your overall well-being.” It’s a way to approach birding as a mindfulness practice, rather than toting up the number of species you see. Now Crossley and co-author Holly Merker will lead in-person ornitherapy talks at Madrona Marsh Preserve. The preserve, a seasonal water source on the Pacific Flyway migration route, is a great place to go birding. Sessions cost $25 per person and take place at 9 a.m., 11 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. on April 24 and 25. Each session is limited to 10 people (and they’re expected to sell out). To make a reservation, call Wild Birds Unlimited in Redondo Beach at (310) 543-2473.

Changing views of Mt. Pacifico, in the San Gabriel Mountains.
Mt. Pacifico, in the San Gabriel Mountains.
(Mary Forgione / Los Angeles Times)

2. Take a hike to Mt. Pacifico following the Pacific Crest Trail. I never tire of this exchange when I’m hiking to Mt. Pacifico in the San Gabriel Mountains: “Where you going?” I ask a passing hiker with a heavy pack. “Canada,” they reply. Just last week I ran into a man on the first leg of the 2,650-mile trail from the border of Mexico to the border of Canada. (The Southern California segment covers 700 miles.) There are other ways to get to the peak, including driving on rocky unpaved forest roads, but the PCT route is by far the prettiest. It starts out steadily uphill from the Mill Creek Summit Picnic Area off Angeles Forest Highway, then flattens a bit and rolls through a woodsy canyon. A short, steep, calf-burning deer trail takes you to the top — and views of the Antelope Valley and Little Rock below. Round-trip mileage: 12 miles, 2,200 feet of gain. Find this hike and others on The 50 Best Hikes in L.A. list.

Bride and groom kissing on a zipline platform on Catalina Island.
Ready for an up-in-the-air wedding on Catalina?
(Catalina Island Co.)

3. Grab your helmet and get married on Catalina Island’s zipline. Let’s say COVID-19 messed up your wedding plans and now you want something different. Maybe that “something” is to wed on the Zipline Eco Tour on Catalina. You’ll zip along at 600 feet above sea level, zigzagging down a canyon and stopping at five platforms on the course that serves as your procession down the aisle. Reservations for four zipline weddings open at noon Pacific time April 20; ceremonies take place May 13. The zipline nuptials come with a two-night stay at the Hotel Atwater, wedding dinner at the Catalina Casino, a private cabana and an endless Champagne brunch at Descanso Beach Club, boat transportation to and from the island, and other amenities. Cost is $2,950. More info here.

The milestone

Mike Eberts, on his vintage Schwinn, circa 1990.
(Mike Eberts)

Back in the last century, my friend Mike Eberts bought a Schwinn Traveler bicycle for $234.95 from Safety Cycle on Western Avenue in Los Angeles. In the spring of 1988, Mike, a professor who teaches mass communication at Glendale Community College, decided to ride his bike to work every day from the Los Feliz area.

And he set a big goal: Log a quarter-million miles on the bike to show “you really can travel a significant number of miles on a bicycle — even in car-centric Southern California.” Last Friday, Mike hit the 250,000-mile mark — counting commutes and weekend century rides — on the 35-year-old Schwinn. “Back in 1990 I could have imagined that I would reach my 250,000-mile goal,” he wrote me in an email. “What I couldn’t have imagined is that I would be riding to a deserted campus depopulated for more than a year by a deadly pandemic. Weird!”

During his commuter rides, Mike had no serious falls (though he’s had other bike-related maladies, such as the time he was “throwing up all over Fresno” at Mile 188 on the Bass Lake Double Century. He thought it was something he ate; turns out he was passing a kidney stone).


I like this story because I like Mike (we’ve been friends for more than four decades) and because it makes me aware of all personal milestones people celebrate every day in L.A. If you want to follow in Mike’s tire treads, here are his tips on how to get started:

  • Get a bike that fits you and you’re comfortable with.
  • Find a bike shop that will work with you and your needs as a rider.
  • Get a high-quality bike helmet. Virginia Tech tests and rates bike helmets here.
  • If you’re just starting, Sunday mornings are a great time to ride. Traffic is relatively light and less aggressive.

Tent talk

Illustration of a camping tent behind red velvet ropes.
(Micah Fluellen / Los Angeles Times)

Many people ask me how to get a campsite in California. There’s no easy answer. Each land-managing agency has its own website and rules, which is why I wrote a story that breaks down the many ways to book a campsite. Here are other things you need to know as summer approaches.

  • Locally: Bolsa Chica State Beach in Orange County is closed and will remain shut in April because of a repaving project. Doheny State Beach in Dana Point also is closed to camping because of a construction project that started in November. It should be completed by the end of May. Also, a large part of the Angeles National Forest remains closed until April 2022 because of damage from the Bobcat fire. Buckhorn Campground, about 36 miles north of La Cañada Flintridge, will not open this summer. Many trails remain closed too, including the Pacific Crest Trail-Dawson Saddle, Twin Peaks, Devils Canyon, Mt. Islip and others. You’ll find a list of closures here.
  • Yosemite National Park: The park will require reservations for day visitors starting May 21 to reduce “risks associated with exposure to COVID-19,” a statement says. This is the third time since the pandemic began that the park has taken steps to reduce the number of visitors. Day visitors must go to to make a reservation, starting at 8 a.m. Pacific time April 21. Reservations will be required through Sept. 30 (you don’t need one if you have a reserved campsite or lodging in the park).

    Also, Yosemite will reopen campgrounds that have been shut because of the pandemic, but with fewer sites. All campgrounds — Upper Pines, Lower Pines, North Pines, Camp 4, Bridalveil Creek, Tuolumne Meadows and Wawona — will require advance reservations. Bookings open 7 a.m. Pacific time on April 15 for stays Aug. 15 to Sept. 14. Check Yosemite’s website to see opening dates for each campsite.

  • Highway 1: Hoping to take a road trip on the central coast? Good news. Highway 1 near Big Sur is expected to reopen to traffic by April 30, according to Caltrans. Twenty-three miles of the highway shut in both directions at Rat Creek after a Jan. 28 mudslide washed out 150 feet of the road. The gap has been filled with compacted dirt to bring it up to road level, and will be paved and striped within the next two weeks.

Wild things

The eyes of a black toad, partly submerged in water.
The endangered black toad has the smallest range of any amphibian in North America.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

You think your dating life is tough? Consider this toad, which inhabits the smallest range of any North American amphibian. “When you’re as rare and vulnerable as a black toad, you can’t afford to be coy about romance,” my colleague Louis Sahagún wrote. That’s why the breeding season is so critical. These toads thrive in the high desert between the Inyo and White mountain ranges about four hours north of Los Angeles. Remote Deep Springs College, set in the high desert, is committed to helping by keeping cattle away from streams and giving the toads some peace and quiet while mating. “My priorities are cattle, toads, water and pasturelands,” said Tim Gipson, 63, the college’s ranch manager. Read the full story here.

Social moment

Thanks, REI, for the “How to Hit the Trails in 2021” video posted on Instagram. Pattie Gonia (a.k.a. professional photographer Wyn Wiley), environmental advocate drag queen, offers some hiking tips and ends with this: “If you enjoyed this, do me a big favor. Leave your hatred and racism off the trails. Tataaa.”

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Click to view the web version of this newsletter and share it with others, and sign up to have it sent weekly to your inbox. I’m Mary Forgione, and I write The Wild. I’ve been exploring trails and open spaces in Southern California for four decades.

Mary Forgione