By Phoebe Davies-Owen and Scott Douglas Jacobsen
In 1970, Earth Day was started by the Wisconsin politician named Gaylord Nelson. It led to the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act. Apparently, the foundation of Earth was a “rare political alignment” with support from “Republicans and Democrats, rich and poor, city slickers and farmers, tycoons and labor leaders.”
Into the current celebration, the environmental movement continues to garner international support through the annual reminder of the need to protect the Earth’s – and our – life support systems. In 1990, the celebration – on its 20th anniversary – was important for the improvement in recycling.
As well, these were foundational for the 1992 Rio de Janeiro United Nations Earth Summit. In 1995, Senator Gaylord Nelson earned the honour of the Presidential medal of Freedom from the then United States president Bill Clinton, which is known as the highest civilian honour in America.
This year’s celebration will feature support from over 200 million people from 141 countries working to protect the environment this Earth Day. As with 2010 onward, arguably before that time, we face challenges with the denial of the reality of climate change or global warming based on the best statistical models and the consensus of the experts in the relevant disciplines.
As well, this includes “well-funded oil lobbyists, reticent politicians, a disinterested public, and a divided environmental community all contributed to the narrative—cynicism versus activism.” So the reminder for the year – indeed, the imperative – seems to be the need to change the narrative from the general negative apathy seen in cynicism and to change that into proactive engagement.
In what ways are we able to make a difference? Some things include turning off light-bulbs when the room is not in use, and any other electrical appliances and/or heating. We can recycle food waste and try NOT to waste so much food that we buy for the home. For the more creative ones, or those inclined towards homemade remedies and DIY solutions for everyday consumables, opting to go for homemade products for various cleansing and maintenance activities, instead of industrial options which contain a large amount of chemicals and plastic, can make a big difference. What might help in this regard, a solution which also benefits the environment is eating less meat.
According to the Earth Day website, the meat industry is responsible for 20% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. With global meat consumption tripling over the last four decades, the meat industry now emits over 36 billion tons of greenhouse gases annually and is showing no signs of slowing down, Earth Day introduced a ‘Meatless Mondays’ petition in order to encourage more people to eat less meat.
Another option is to pledge not to use disposable plastic. Earth Day has another petition for this issue and consider it a priority. At present, 300 million tons of plastic is produced each year to make bags, bottles, packages, and other commodities for people all over the world. But! Only about 10% of this plastic is properly recycled and reused. The rest ends up as waste in landfills or as litter in our natural environment, where it leaches dangerous chemicals into the nearby soil and water, endangering humans and wildlife alike.
One last option is to donate to Earth Day’s ‘Canopy project,’ which aims to work with organisations worldwide that strengthen communities through tree planting. Using sapling and seed distribution, urban forestry, agroforestry, and tree care training, we have empowered rural and urban people alike to conserve, repair, and restore tree cover to their lands.
The goal of Earth Day is to strive, not just for “an environment of clean air and water and scenic beauty,” but to reach “an environment of decency, quality and mutual respect for all other human beings and all other living creatures.”