Today is Earth Day, the annual global event held to highlight environmental issues and demonstrate support for environmental protection. It is being celebrated in 2013 by more than one billion people across 192 countries, having grown over the years from an active street protest in the United States to multiple platforms all over the world for talking about and committing to “acts of green.”
It All Starts with Raising Awareness
I think we can all agree that raising awareness is important. After all, any major change starts with awareness. For Earth Day, we have been encouraging awareness since 1970, when the first call to action rallied 20 million Americans to demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable environment. But I can’t help wonder how many years of awareness-raising is needed until all of us fully realise that caring for earth is a full-time job, not just something you do once a year.
Since 1990, Earth Day has been celebrated worldwide, drawing a lot of media attention to the earth’s vulnerabilities. We are reminded how fragile the earth is and how much damage we as humans are capable of causing. As the goal of the day is to raise awareness rather than provoke sudden change, critics of Earth Day say it is nothing but talk. However, all people are joining forces, from conservatives to liberals, and there is always great value in that.
What Can You Do?
According to the Earth Day Network, the organisation of about 1 million community members that power Earth Day, April 22 is a day for action, to show that the environment matters. It’s a day both to use your voice and to get involved.
Today you can attend many activities in the U.S. and abroad, or pledge to take action by taking part in a global mosaic. Anyone can organize a local event or volunteer at events, and even large companies are playing their part.
A Few Earth Day Events
This year, the Nature Conservancy is suggesting that everyone Picnic for the Planet. How will a picnic change the world? It probably won’t, but it will get all sorts of people together to discuss the environment in an informal manner. After all, picnic necessarily involves the planet we live on, the food it provides and the people we share it with.
Some organisers want to take Earth Day one step further. Last Sunday, Los Angeles was the site of the WorldFest 2013 Earth Day Festival, a solar-powered, earth-friendly event that encompassed several stages and lots of bands. More than 100 exhibitors showcased their earth-conscious products or eco- and animal-friendly messages.
But not everything can be that big. For example, there’s Earth Day Indiana, this coming Saturday, April 27. This free outdoor festival includes many events for kids and adults alike, and the Indiana Wildlife Federation will help 200 kids build bird feeders they can take home.
Of course, there are many many more gatherings and assemblies all over the world!
What’s the Difference Between Earth Day and Earth Hour… and What About Earth Year?
Earth Hour was started in 2007 to raise awareness for sustainability and global warming. Now, several years later, on the last Saturday of March, lights are being turned off for an hour (starting at 8:30pm in any time zone) in more and more cities in a growing number of countries. As similar as there names and goals are, though, Earth Hour and Earth Day have nothing do with each other.
And yet, despite all this mobilisation, is the earth doing well or not? Well, more animals and plants than ever before are on the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species. The Amazon is being threatened by agriculture and hydroelectric dams. Overpopulation is becoming more of a problem, especially in places like India and China.
So how will picnics and festivals change that? Right now, probably not very much. But the goal is to raise awareness and encourage action. As with all periods of transition, we need to start with small steps. Then, slowly but surely, more and more people will wake up to what it means to to be “green” all year round.
So let’s celebrate Earth Hour in March and Earth Day today, but let’s also keep in mind that Earth is something we should think about whole year round!