For the past 50 years, Earth Day has been celebrated by billions of people around the globe, annually every April 22, to join together in promoting awareness for the health of our environment. Why should we continue to celebrate this holiday? Some people may view it as just another holiday, or an excuse to wear green and a flower crown, similar to St. Patrick’s Day, but with serious concerns about our changing environment being studied and addressed today by prominent scientists, politicians, and young climate change activists alike, some people are adapting to more environmentally friendly ways of living — every day, not just on April 22 every year. Cue the composting, recycling, repurposing, carpooling, thrifting, and metal straws to save the turtles.
HISTORY OF EARTH DAY
The idea for Earth Day was originally born in 1969, when a US Senator named Gaylord Nelson, witnessed the effects of a massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, CA. He called to action all Americans to take a stand for the environment in 1970, and thousands of colleges and universities across the United States organized protests for a healthy, sustainable Earth. This included air pollution from factories and freeways, as well as the loss of habitats for animals and animal extinction. Because of these national rallies, the first Earth Day helped create the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species acts into law.
Today, we have similar concerns, and unfortunately they are even messier than that original oil spill. Increasing natural disasters, extreme weather, and rising global temperatures may seem impossible for one human, let alone millions or even billions of humans, to slow down, or stop. It has been reported that coral reefs are dying, we see pictures of animals on land and in the ocean with trash in their bellies or around their body, and corporate factories and large companies around the world continue to pollute our air and our living spaces. But a small action, like picking up litter on the sidewalk that may have otherwise ended up around the neck of an animal or in the ocean, still makes an impact — a step in the right direction, and an important change.
EARTH DAY TIMELINE
1970 – The First Ever Earth Day
20 million Americans protest in the streets for more environmental protections.
1990 – Earth Day becomes Globally Popular
200 million people are now organizing and united, fighting for climate protections across 141 countries.
2018 – School Strikes for Climate Change
Young people begin to strike for climate change, led by Greta Thunberg in Sweden, with around 2,200 strikes organized in 125 countries from 2018 – 2019.
2019 – Green New Deal is presented
A “Green New Deal” Resolution is presented to the United States Congress for 100% renewable, zero-emission energy sources.
EARTH DAY ACTIVITIES
Reduce your carbon footprint
Get creative with new ways to switch up your commute, or a part of your daily routine. Instead of driving to your destination, carpool with friends, take public transportation, walk, skate, scooter, or ride a bike. Depending on the weather, you may enjoy this new form of travel even more than sitting in traffic.
Reuse, and recycle your wardrobe
Though it may seem insignificant in the grand scheme of things, your closet and your shopping habits can actually have a negative effect on our environment. By buying thrifted or gently used outfits online, new resources aren’t used to make more clothes that will eventually end up being repurposed, reused, or in a landfill. Some studies have shown that online shopping is better for the environment because it takes about 30% less resources to sell items online. Fire up your Amazon Prime app!
Switch up your diet
Most people may know that food production accounts for one-quarter to one-third of all greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, and the majority of the blame falls on the meat industry. The BBC recently reported that if the entire world became vegetarian and ate no red meat by 2050, food-related emissions would decrease by about 60%. If the world went vegan instead, emissions would decrease around 70%. It may be time to try out the new ‘Beyond Meat’ burgers.
5 FACTS ABOUT EARTH DAY THAT WILL BLOW YOUR MIND
1. Record high carbon dioxide
According to the National Geographic society, the carbon dioxide in our atmosphere has never been higher, in part potentially due to nature, and in part due to the advances we as humans have made in industrialization across the globe, since the 1700’s.
2. Less food waste means less greenhouse gas
Many people may not know this, but the more food we waste and do not consume, the more greenhouse gasses are emitted to transport and biodegrade the waste.
3. Climate change effects temperatures and weather
According to the U.S. Global Change Research Program, the temperature in the U.S. has increased by 2 degrees in the last 50 years and precipitation has increased by 5%. More extreme weather phenomenons have been occuring in the past 50 years — Extreme weather in 2019 broke over 120,000 records in the US.
4. It’s a politically debated topic
Even though 97 percent or more of climate scientists agree that climate change is likely due to human activity (according to the Earth Day Network), and nearly 200 scientific organizations globally have issued statements that agree with this view, it’s still a widely debated topic in 2020.
5. The top emitter of carbon dioxide
China, with their human population of 1.4 Billion, is currently the top emitter of carbon dioxide, accounting for 30% of global carbon emissions, according to Earth Day Network. However, the United States, with a population around 328 Million, comes in second under China as a top emitter, at 15% of carbon emissions worldwide.
WHY WE LOVE EARTH DAY
Everyone can participate
The idea behind continuing to celebrate Earth Day, and why we love it, is because it is based on people working together in unity to achieve a better future for everyone. Connecting with people around the world is important to continue to appreciate and respect people from different countries, and other differences in opinion. No one is left out or left behind, everyone can do something small to make an impact on our planet.
Small acts matter
You don’t have to plant a forest to enjoy Earth Day. Even if you feel like reusing your metal water bottle instead of buying a plastic bottle or a styrofoam coffee cup doesn’t make much of a difference, your small acts can change and improve the world we live in. Now that you have awareness that climate change is affecting all of us, do your part to make positive changes wherever you go, no matter how small, they are significant, and this is your chance to improve our world.
We only have one Earth
Earth Day serves as a conscious reminder of how fragile our ecosystem can be, and how our actions can have positive or negative consequences on the world we live in. This holiday serves to ground us in what we need to do to protect our home, and what we can do now, in light of all the damage we have already done to our world. Not everyone has to go out in the streets and protest, but we all need to be reminded to stay in the right mindset — Not to live in constant fear of the world burning down and flooding, but not to live in ignorance, either.