This year’s Earth Day marks 49 years since millions of Americans took to the streets to protest for environmental reform in the wake of a growing ecological and environmental concern. These peaceful protestors from schools (sound familiar?), universities and communities were becoming increasingly aware of the impact industrialisation had had on the world around them: oil spills, increasing air pollution and loss of biodiversity.
In the half-century that followed, 1 billion people across 192 countries joined the movement, and Earth Day today is celebrated annually in what is the largest civic-focused day of action in the world. Every year on April 22, people plant trees, sign petitions, meet with their elected officials, clean up their local neighbourhoods and march for change.
In 2019, Earth Day’s theme is Protect our Species, a subject that seems very timely given the global decline in biodiversity. This decline has been linked to climate change, the growing human population, continued habitat destruction, chemical pollution, invasive species, trafficking and poaching and unsustainable agriculture. It’s an issue which the Earth Day Network, who coordinates Earth Day activities around the world, is tackling head-on:
“The good news is that the rate of extinctions can still be slowed,” says the Earth Day Network’s website, “and many of our declining, threatened and endangered species can still recover if we work together now [emphasis added] to build a united global movement of consumers, voters, educators, faith leaders, and scientists to demand immediate action.”
To do this, Earth Day 2019 seeks to bring together those willing to stand for the future of our planet to educate others and raise awareness, work toward major policy shifts, take part in a global movement which embraces nature and its values and take individual ownership and action to contribute to real change.
This is all well and good, but is it enough? We all know what it’s like to get caught up in the moment of an exciting event – you feel inspired, fired up, ready to stand up for what you believe in and demand change. But what happens when the social media posts stop and the protesters go home? When the Earth Day celebrations finish for another year and you wake up the next morning, ready to rebegin the daily grind?
What are we really doing, every day, to protect our beautiful planet, demand change and – to continue this year’s theme – protect our earth’s incredible biodiversity?
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Rethink your consumption:
- Shop mindfully. Think: Do I really need that product? Does it have a negative impact on the environment? Is there an environmentally-friendly alternative?
- Choose certified businesses for your holidays and choose zoos which have conservation programs in place
- Buy fruit and veggies from local farmers and talk to them about their farming practices
- Buy organic when possible – the avoidance of pesticides is better for your health and for wildlife
- Reduce your carbon footprint:
- Swap your lightbulbs for efficient CFLs or LEDs
- Turn off lights and appliances at the wall when not in use (including your computer)
- Use public transport, carpool, walk or cycle where possible
- Keep your car tyres properly inflated to get better mileage on your tank of fuel
- Hang your clothes on a clothes line rather than using a dryer
- Take the stairs (this is good exercise, but also reduces energy use!)
- Consume less plastic – avoid plastic straws, take your own bags to the shop, refill your water bottle
- Save water:
- Turn the tap off when you brush your teeth
- Take shorter showers
- Only run dishwashers and washing machines when they’re full
- Use a watering can, rather than a hose, for your garden – and only water in the morning or evening to reduce evaporation
- Plant native trees and plants which are best suited to your local climate
- Reduce pollution:
- Opt for non-toxic cleaning products or make your own
- Properly dispose of chemical products
- Avoid pesticides in the garden
- Use sunscreen that’s good for the planet
- Recycle everything you can
- Pick up rubbish when you see it, particularly in natural areas
- Encourage your team or family to reduce single-use plastics in the home and office
- Protect wildlife and habitats:
- Follow signage in national parks – this is designed to protect ecosystems and wildlife
- Volunteer for a cause you care about
- Petition for change by writing to your local government representatives – particularly in light of the upcoming election
- Think carefully about purchasing animal goods, including when you’re on holiday – sadly, many products made of wild animals or plants are sold illegally around the world
What’s your best tip to protect our species this Earth Day and beyond? Let us know in the comments below!
For more information about Earth Day, check out the Earth Day Network website or follow Earth Day activities on social media.
[Header image: Great Ocean Ecolodge / Conservation Ecology Centre]