50 Years of Earth Day: What is Earth Day and how can you get involved?
In the midst of a pandemic, it would be easy to miss that today is Earth Day. In fact it's the 50th Earth Day! While traditional events and protests have had to be postponed, the conversation will continue with a 72-hour online event. It’s expected that an estimated 1 billion people, around the world, will join together to spread the message and drive forward climate action. And you can get involved too!
What is Earth Day?
The first Earth Day was held in 1970, after US Senator Gaylor Nelson witnessed the impact of an oil spill in Santa Barbara. This, alongside the smog choked cities, river pollution and chemical waste, highlighted the need for action to be taken. The first Earth Day saw 20 million people across the US demanding change.
This led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, the passing of several important bills and started a shift in people's mindsets, positioning earth as something which we must protect, not exploit.
Since then the movement has gone global! By the 90s it had reached 141 countries and saw 200 million people joining each year. It played a big role in paving the way for the 1992 UN Earth Summit. In 2016, Earth Day was chosen by the United Nations as the day to sign the Paris Climate Change Agreement into force.
Fast forward to now, and its expected that over 1 billion people will come together for the 50th Earth Day. The theme for this year's Earth Day is Climate Action, as 2020 is considered a tipping point, particularly in relation to greenhouse gas emissions and if we are to achieve the UN Goal of keeping global warming below 2C.
Questioning if climate change is real? Well a report has been released by the World Meteorological Organisation to mark the anniversary, which confirms the past 5 years have actually been the hottest on record! The evidence is clear, we really do need to act now.
“Despite the amazing success and decades of environmental progress , we find ourselves facing an even more dire, almost existential, set of global environmental challenges, from loss of biodiversity to climate change to plastic pollution, that call for actions of all levels of government.”
Dennis Hayes, organiser of the first earth day
UN experts are urging us to all “show the same determination and unity” against the accelerating problem of climate change as against coronavirus. Government action and policy change are some of the best tools we have in this battle.
Notable people around the world are using their platforms to share the importance of Earth Day and the need for climate action now. The Dalai Lama took to twitter to promote the message that we all should strive to “live in harmony with nature”.
We can no longer exploit the resources of this earth—the trees, the water, and other natural resources—without any care for coming generations. Common sense tells us that unless we change, we won’t survive. This Earth Day let’s resolve to live in harmony with nature.— Dalai Lama (@DalaiLama) April 22, 2020
So, how can you get involved?
The main event is, Earth Day Live; made up of a collection of online discussions, performances and webinars, which you can check out here. Speakers include Dr Sylvia Earle (Marine Biologist), Pope Francis, and Al Gore (former US VP) alongside other leading scientists, journalists and activists (think Leonardo DiCaprio).
On the website there is also a handy search tool which allows you to find the perfect way for you to get involved. These include online activities for children to create things such as artwork and poetry, inspired by the climate crisis.