Arguably, Earth Day isn’t a huge holiday. On many calendars, it often goes unlabeled and for the most part people remain oblivious to it until they tune into social media and realize it’s Earth Day. However, a lot of people are actually off school today and some businesses are closed. Unfortunately, it’s not in honor of the environment; it’s mostly a leftover celebration from Easter. However, this doesn’t make Earth Day any less special or important for that matter; especially given the worrisome condition our planet is in.
Today, Google celebrated the holiday by featuring a Google Doodle of six creatures. Their goal is to remind us that we’re a part of a nature; it rolls with this year’s theme of “Protect Our Species” that Google announced earlier in the year.
Despite the beautiful artwork and what once inspired people to go outside and pick up trash, Earth Day this year is incredibly sobering. Ocean levels are steadily rising, Earth is warming faster than ever before, migrants are forced to flee their homes due to environmental disasters brought about by mankind, and several species of animals, plants, and insects have become severely endangered or extinct altogether. Taxpayers are also shoulder the cost of repairing communities that have been devastated by climate-linked hurricanes and wildfires.
Luckily, a lot of blind eyes have begun to open and measures have been taken to start protecting the environment. The Trump Adminstration plans to go live with polices designed to protect both the environment and our health soon. In the meantime, people all around the world are calling for action and bringing this dreary subject matter to the light. In fact, a wave of young environmental activists are paving the way for a better future for our planet.
These activists have been taking to the streets and striking for a safer climate. Classrooms, courtrooms, and even Congress members have hopped on board thanks to the efforts of these activitists. Because of this young wave’s work, the Green New Deal is getting a lot of attention and backing. This deal aims to employ a number of tactics designed to protect the environment.
So for this Earth Day, we’ll not only take a brief look at the history of the holiday, but we’ll also focus in keeping up with traditions set in place by former Vox writers. In keeping with these traditions, we’ll be reviewing a few things we’ve learned about our planet since the last time we celebrated this holiday.
Earth Day: a brief history
Earth Day often gets confused with Earth Hour or people assume that both of these happen on the same day. However, they’re not the same holiday. In March, we have what is called Earth Hour. At a certain time, people are encouraged to switch off their power in order to not only give our planet a break from energy consumption, but to also appreciate the natural beauty. “By switching off your power and everyone else around you doing it, you really get a feeling of connection with the world. You can see so many stars and hear so many animals that you previously couldn’t hear. It’s amazing,” people write.
However, Earth Day doesn’t include an Earth Hour. People of course are encouraged to lighten their load on this holiday, but the main focus of this particular one is to alert people to the state of the world. It’s also used to garner support for environmental protection and to help others see as well as realize the impact we’re having on our planet.
“You can also think of it as a yearly checkup but for the planet. Just like you go on for a yearly physical and the doctor gives you a status report, Earth Day is the same. We look back at the previous years and compare them to today. We then take our findings and use them to make the public aware of what’s going on,” say experts. “Unfortunately, it’s usually not good news that we’re reporting.
Since 1970, Earth Day has been celebrated annually on April 22. Events are held worldwide to draw in support for the environment as well as encourage changes for the better. These events stretch to more than 193 countries; all of which are globally coordinated by the Earth Day Network.
Today’s kids are mad as hell at us and for good reason
As the world’s population continues to grow, we bring more and more people into the world that may very well be around to see the end of the century. Even those close to the age of 18 could very easily still be here when the year 2100 rolls around. And for the bulk of them, they’re incredibly angry about the world and the climate that they’re inheriting. According to current trajectories, the planet is expected to warm globally by about 4 degrees Celsius by the time the clock strikes midnight on the year 2100.
While this might not sound like a big deal at first, 4 degrees is a significant change. It can lead to a number of deadly factors such as natural disasters, droughts, disease, and even food shortages. “That degree change is enough to increase the speed that the ice caps are melting and that’s dangerous in and of itself. However, with climate change also comes over factors like more earthquakes, tornadoes, violent storms, etc.,” activists say.
The younger generations are also quick to point fingers back at the older generation. “The world we’re left to inherit isn’t in good hands. You didn’t take care of it. You didn’t listen to the warnings and you abused the planet beyond repair and then you hand it over to us like it’s a gift! Instead, we’re left scrambling to see if we can even fix the mess left behind,” many lament. “If our parents and their parents would have just altered their lifestyles a little bit the world would be so much better off than it is now.”
In 120 countries, students went on strike. This happened in March and they were demanding that action be taking regarding climate change. “They won’t take us seriously or even listen to us unless we do something drastic,” said the strikers. “We didn’t want it to come to this, but they’ve got to listen.” These strikes are a youth-led activism movement and is just one part of many regarding the movement. There’s currently another global strike being planned by the same group that will take place on May 24th.
This movement, #FridaysForFuture, was brought to life by Greta Thunberg. Great is a 16-year-old from Sweden. She began picketing outside of her skip and skipping classes in order to protest the government’s inaction regarding climate change. Since then, others have joined in on the cause.
Greta Thunberg has also become a global ambassador and role model for youths who are concerned about climate change.
At a speech in Davos, Greta said “I want to tell you that our house is on fire. Not just my house, but your house is well; the Earth is everyone’s house. I don’t want you to have false hope; I don’t want you to tell us that ‘everything will be okay.’ I want you to panic. I want you to wake up in fear and be unable to sleep at night because of it. I want us to take action.”
Plastic is becoming an even bigger issue
Plastic has always been an area of contention. It’s bad for the environment, but so many products we rely on daily use it. Even though it was going into the ocean, many people took action back in the early 90s to protect fish, turtles, and dolphins by cutting plastic soda rings. “It was a good start, but we need far more action taken against not only plastic, but trash in general,” activists say.
Even though many soda and drink manufacturers no longer make the plastic rings, that hasn’t stopped plastic from spilling out into our oceans. Every day, it’s becoming more and more concerning and common to hear about plastic washing ashore or killing wildlife. In fact earlier this month, a sperm whale was found dead along the coast of Sardinia, Italy. The cause of her death? 49 pounds worth of plastic was present in her stomach. Back in March, a Cuvier’s beaked whale was vomiting blood near a coast in the Philippines. Nothing could be done for the whale and it died a few short hours later. When examined by scientists, they discovered 88 pounds of plastic waste inside its stomach.
But how much plastic trash are we allowing into the ocean each year? According to scientists, the equivalent to the plastic’s mass would be something along the sides of the size of the Great Pyramid of Giza. This means every year we essentially push a massive pyramid of plastic into the waters where it is accidentally eaten by sea animals.
The croak of a frog isn’t as cute anymore
For many, the sound of frogs chirping/croaking is incredibly relaxing and beautiful. Unfortunately once you realize the cause of some of the frogs’ croaking, it suddenly doesn’t become so sweet and magical.
According to scientists, the spread of amphibian fungus or Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, or Bd for short, is causing serious concern in the frog community. Some time back, scientists discovered that this fungus, which causes the frogs to croak in an effort to “clear” it from their airways, is responsible for the decline and extinction of 200 frog species. However, they’re now reporting this pathogen is responsible for more deaths that they realized.
“Bd has killed off 90 species of frogs and 124 other species have declined in numbers by an astonishing 90 percent. This population crash is significant and you’d expect it to stretch back further than 50 years, but it doesn’t. It’s extremely concerning and we could easily see frogs as a whole making their way to the critically endangered species list,” scientists say.
But what does that have to do with us? Well, the fungus is certainly deadly on its own and grows on its own as well, but humans have definitely contributed to its spread around the globe. And as more and more forests and habitats are taken down, frogs are pushed into smaller areas where they’re likely to come in contact with the disease. The disease is also incredibly hard to treat and get rid of.
A little over a decade of the “best case scenario” remains
Many are still hopeful that there’s plenty of time to fix things, but according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which houses the world’s top scientists, put out a report that left everyone in a state of shock. According to their report, there’s very little time left to restrict global warming to just under 1.5 degrees Celsius, and even that is incredibly ambitious.
“We have just over a decade to hit this target goal before the window closes completely. And in order to do this, we’re going to have to really change our lifestyles. Global greenhouse emission gases for starters will have to be cut in half by the year 2030. If we can do this, then the next goal is to push for zero emissions by 2050 and eventually we would have to start withdrawing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere itself,” scientists say. “If we can’t reach these goals, then the 1.5 degrees Celsius window closes for good and we’re left to more warming.”
Unfortunately, we’re far off track from reaching those numbers and we’re only getting further away. “We know what we have to do, but we haven’t seen any improvements; in fact, we’re only getting worse. In 2018, we hit an all-time high with global carbon dioxide emissions. It was a record of 411 parts CO2 per million. This is the highest level we’re hit since the dawn of mankind. And in the US, energy usage also hit a record high and greenhouse gases are expected to rise again as well.”
What are your thoughts?
We’d like to know what you think about this piece. Are you shocked to learn about the amount of plastic being dumped into the oceans? And what do you think of the target goal of 1.5 Celsius? Do you think it’s a goal we can actually hit, or do you have very little hope like many of the scientists? Especially considering how far off track we are from hitting the numbers. What do you think the solutions are, if any, for getting more people motivated to take action? Let us know in the comment section!