Taylor Patterson, 4/22/21.
Earth Day has now been celebrated for 51 years. What started as a Minnesota senator’s desperate plea to spotlight climate change has evolved into a worldwide day of recognition and action to protect our struggling planet. Now, over 1 billion people across more than 174 countries participate in Earth Day activities, making it the largest secular civic event in the world. Children and adults all over the globe know that Earth Day is a day to recycle, clean up their neighborhood, or plant a tree. But 51 years after this day’s inception, it’s important to remember the deeper meaning behind the observed holiday and understand what that original call to action from Senator Nelson Gaylord implied.
Education. Perhaps the most impactful and necessary aspect of any call to action or initiative for change is education. Why do we need to recognize Earth Day each year? What about this cause denotes an annual worldwide event? Educating groups of people – from the naysayers to children to inspiring activists – is the only way that Earth Day can continue to grow and expand each year. Those who have studied climate change must use their platforms to expose the severity of Earth’s declining health and demonstrate the steps we need to take. Whether you are a member of the clean energy industry, an active supporter of the cause, or just someone who takes the few minutes out of their day to read this article, we all must take the time to educate ourselves and share what we learn with others.
Accountability. This is a tricky concept for most, because accountability means taking responsibility, which generally implies we have done something wrong. And, of course, no one likes to feel like they have made mistakes or caused harm, but accountability is a necessary step in change. The world doesn’t need more bystanders: people who walk by trash on the ground, who don’t recycle because their neighborhood doesn’t have a program, or who turn a blind eye to companies disposing of harmful pollutants into a defenseless ecosystem. We must not let the responsibility fall on someone else’s shoulders. Pick up the piece of garbage even if you weren’t the one who left it; start collecting recyclables and take the trip once a week to the nearest public recycling center; speak up about the importance of sustainability and form your organization’s first green committee. Hold yourself and others accountable, and together we can continue to make bigger and better changes.
Rectification. Once we hold ourselves responsible, something must be done to right the wrong, redirect the path, restore what was lost. Sometimes this can be small, like planting a tree or choosing reusable glass over plastic. Other times, it can be a larger and longer-lasting change, such as purchasing an electric vehicle or a heat pump for your home, volunteering on a regular basis, or raising your voice to help pass legislation through congress. President Biden recently introduced an infrastructure plan directing billions of dollars to sustainable transportation, supportive infrastructure, and a resilient grid. The president is setting the US on a new direction toward a sustainable future. Calling for changes at the highest level sets a strong precedent for rectifying the human-based causes of the climate crisis. Remember that no action is too small to make a difference. So think about a creative solution you can adopt to rectify some of the unsustainable practices and behaviors in your everyday life.
Tidal. Earth Day brings in a high tide of awareness, action, and attention to our planet each April, inspiring people worldwide to make sustainable and efficient changes for the well-being of our planet. However, once Earth Day is over and April ends, the tide leaves and pulls the overwhelming initiative and support with it. Of course, there are many people who continue fighting the climate crisis with enthusiasm year-round, but for many it is a tidal occurrence. Earth Day celebrations and activities demonstrate that people do care and they are willing to make changes and participate in the necessary actions to reduce harm to the planet, but Earth Day cannot be just one day a year. It fully deserves to be center stage for one day, but what are we doing in the background when the spotlight shifts away? What work are we putting in when people aren’t looking? It’s high time to bring in the tide, and this year, in 2021, don’t let your enthusiasm slip away as April comes to an end.
Humanity. You guessed it: the biggest agent in the climate crisis is humanity. The culmination of our decisions and behaviors since our time on this earth began has created the severity of our current climate crisis. It took a global pandemic to see how drastically changing our every-day living habits can alter greenhouse gas emission levels, ozone presence in the atmosphere, water and air quality, and other measures historically troubled by human behavior. Widespread shutdowns led to less traffic, which shrunk the hole in the ozone layer, cleared smoggy cities in California and Japan, and returned rivers and canal water to a healthy transparency. We are the biggest change agent in this war against climate change. WE are the highest risk factor. Humanity must change. Humanity must do better and be better. Humanity is what got us into this mess, and humanity is our best chance at getting out.
From all of us at Zondits, we wish all of our readers, colleagues, supporters, and friends a happy Earth Day.