On April 22, 1970, the United States celebrated the first Earth Day, a day set aside to recognize the importance of environmental protection. 

Now, 50 years later, our celebrations to mark this day are quite a bit different. While our gatherings and events have been canceled, Earth Day still provides us a chance to celebrate our planet and reflect on what nature and the outdoors mean to us.  

Carlos Fernandez, Colorado State Director of The Nature Conservancy. (Lauryn Wachs, special to The Colorado Sun)

In my role as the State Director for The Nature Conservancy in Colorado, I spend a lot of time working with colleagues to protect and restore the Colorado we love. As our work continues during this pandemic, I’ve been thinking about our planet even more lately while I’ve been home over the last month working and spending time caring for my family.

As with many families, not only has my home become my place of work and that of my wife, but it has also become a full-time daycare for my daughter. I have taken to going outside every day safely, of course, even just in my own backyard to enjoy the fresh air, smell the flowers blooming and hear the birds chirping. 

My daughter and I have gone on nature scavenger hunts in our neighborhood, we have played many games of fetch with our dog, Kumba, and have worked on perfecting our birding game.

Even as the recent snows fell, I sought ways to bring nature into our lives through books, articles and online wildlife cameras and videos.  

READ: Colorado Sun opinion columnists.

I’ve always held nature in high regard, it’s one of the many reasons I chose to work for The Nature Conservancy. Here in Colorado, the outdoors are part of our DNA.

As with so many, I had to forgo the rest of my ski pass this year, I’ve canceled travel plans with friends, and I don’t know if the yearly camping trips my family takes will still be viable. But I do know that now more than ever, nature has been my savior.  

So, on this Earth Day, I’m taking the day to reflect on what nature means to me and how nature can be a powerful tool to help us all through this incredibly difficult time. 

Nature has the power to soothe, calm, uplift and restore.  Nature is resilient and can remind us of our own resilience especially in times like this, when we are all struggling with this “new normal.”  

Nature can also be a beacon for the future. I know that once we are able to return to our favorite outdoor places, I will appreciate them even more and it gives me something to look forward to, a light at the end of the tunnel.

While we don’t know how long social distancing will last and the impact it will continue to have on our lives, I do know that nature will continue to provide solace, community and hope, and that is something I don’t take for granted. 

Please join me in celebrating 50 years of Earth Day. We all need some bright spots in our lives right now and this is one celebration I think we can all agree we need now more than ever.

Carlos Fernandez is Colorado State Director for the Nature Conservancy

Carlos Fernandez, of Boulder, is the Colorado State Director for The Nature Conservancy.