Written by Clara Larsen, Amina Shaidullina and Caroline Tintinger
The History of Earth Day
While researchers have identified the beginnings of global warming to the mid 1800s, in large part due to the industrial revolution, the need for environmental protection didn’t hold much significance for most people until over a century later. A day to honor the Earth was first proposed in 1969 at a UNESCO conference in San Francisco by peace activist John McConnell, following a disaster in Santa Barbara, California, where 3 million gallons of oil were spilled, killing over 10 000 seabirds, dolphins, seals, and sea lions.
McConnell’s initial idea was to hold this day on March 21, 1970, the day of the Spring equinox. Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson then proposed the date April 22nd for a nationwide environmental teach-in on college campuses, hiring activist Denis Hayes to organize the event. Hayes worried that calling it a “teach-in” was not working, that it was considered “passé”. The campaign was run as an ad in the Sunday edition of the New York Times under the name “Earth Day”, which became a universally used success. This helped expand the event to more than just a college teach-in, involving the National Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers, and the National Science Teachers Association. On April 22, 1970, the first ever Earth Day, over 20 million people took to the streets in peaceful demonstrations for environmental reform. While the first Earth Day was formed in the United States, it has since been taken internationally, currently involving over 1 billion people in 193 countries who participate in events coordinated by EarthDay.org.
Celebrations From Around the Globe
Earth Day aims to unite citizens from all over the world with the common purpose of raising awareness about global environmental issues. Countries celebrate this event in a variety of ways, such as demonstrating sustainable actions or supporting nature.
The United States
In New York City, for example, one Earth Day initiative is holding sustainable and Social Good Pop-Up events. in which more than 70 organizations offer sustainable programs, services and products to encourage New Yorkers.
San Francisco, California, has held an annual Earth Day festival, since 1971. In this event, people conduct sustainable chef showcases and organic food courts, eco-fashion shows, hand-made workshops, accompanied by funny activities and live music.
In Vancouver, British Columbia, people have been celebrating with an Earth Day Parade and Festival since 2010, sponsored by Youth for Climate Justice Now. This event includes supporting the environment through different educational talks and activities.
In the city of Tokyo, Earth Day takes two days, in which around 100,000 people gather in Yoyogi Park. Between the 22nd and 23rd of April, people learn about the usage of sustainable methods in different organizations that produce zero-waste to the environment. Also, during Earth Day in Tokyo, a variety of entertainment and vegetarian food fairs are organized.
How Do We Celebrate Earth Day During the Pandemic ?
Due to the global health pandemic, our lives and countries have seen many negative effects. However, forcing people to follow quarantine measures and stay indoors has positively impacted the environment. During the lockdown, the work of many factories and organizations were halted, which was the reason for lower carbon emission into the atmosphere and the environmental condition improved. Furthermore, large groups of people were not able to gather in one area and conduct different events and festivals. Despite these restrictions, we can still protect Earth by planting trees, walking and breathing fresh air, switching to the use of bicycles (instead of cars and public transports), and recycling rubbish. Earth Day is not only a celebration, but an opportunity to spread awareness about current environmental issues and the actions which must be taken in order to prevent further damage.
With copious amounts of carbon dioxide, methane, and other greenhouse gasses being released into the atmosphere every second of every day, and the temperature of our planet rising, will we ever be able to find the path towards environmental sustainability ? Many argue yes, that it is not too late, while others say there is no going back. Only time will tell the fate of humanity and life on Earth, which has been and will continue to be up to us.
Since the environmental movement took off in the 1930s, we have been aware of the detrimental effects of our lives on planet Earth, and yet in almost 100 years, we have done little to stop this degradation, which threatens our very existence.
While it may seem that little has been done in the way of progress, change has been made. A significant part of the environmental movement timeline is from media, such as books and films, that spread awareness of the issues. The most notable literary contributions to the movement were Rachel Carson’s ‘Silent Spring’ (1962), which exposed the harmful effects of pesticides and insecticides, and James Lovelock’s ‘Gaia Hypothesis’, which proposed that all life on Earth is connected and dependent on one another. Films such as ‘Our Common Future’ (The Brundtland Commission, 1987), and ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ (Al Gore, 2006), had significant impacts on how people view the environment and therefore resulted in worldwide change.
Along with the spreading of awareness, government-led actions have made a significant impact on how the environment is treated globally, benefiting the world as a whole. World summits such as the UN Rio Earth Summit (1992), leading to the formation of Agenda 21, an action plan for sustainable development, have created tangible change. The Kyoto Climate Change Protocol (1997), one of the most notable environmental conferences, still impacts us today, as it reduced emission rates for 36 industrialised nations of the EU by 5% in 5 years following the summit, acting as the impetus for emission reductions. Additionally, the Paris Agreement (2006) slows the effects of climate change through mitigation, finance, and adaptation strategies. While all of these actions may seem like satisfactory solutions, they are strife with shortcomings when it comes to significant change. Many world leaders hide behind their signatures on these agendas and agreements without making any real progress to help stop climate change and save the planet.
This sentiment is best epitomized by Greta Thunberg, a 17-year-old Swedish Activist, who said, “Adults keep saying we owe it to the young people, to give them hope, but I don’t want your hope. I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. I want you to act. I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if the house is on fire because it is.”
- Earth was formed 4,5 billion years ago from the gaseous condition to solid, containing silicate rocks and metals ;
- Earth is the 3rd planet standing 93 million miles apart from the Sun ;
- Our planet has a radius of 3959 kilometres ;
- Earth is considered as the fifth largest planet in our Solar System ;
- Earth rotates on its axis in 23,9 hours with the speed of 18,5 miles in a second ;
- Earth’s atmosphere is filled by 78% of nitrogen, 21% of oxygen and 1% of carbon dioxide ;
- Atmosphere protects the Earth and living creatures from meteorites and UV lights from the Sun.
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