What is World Earth Day?
Instigated by US Senator Gaylord Nelson, Earth Day was first celebrated in 1970 when millions of people in America took to the streets to protest for environmental reform. In the months leading up to the first Earth Day, Americans were consuming vast amounts of leaded gas, oblivious to the impacts on human health, and the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill touched the conscience of the American people. Soon after the first Earth Day, the US passed the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act. The Environmental Protection Agency was also established.
Since 1970, Earth Day has become a global environmental movement across more than 190 countries. It is celebrated on 22 April, the same date every year. More than a billion people worldwide take part in marches, petitions, clean-ups, tree planting and recycling initiatives to protect the environment.
What is the 2020 theme?
Every year, Earth Day has a different theme. The theme for 2020 is Climate Action. It is the most pressing issue of our time.
What are some of the challenges?
Despite the threat of climate change, many countries are reversing environmental protections and failing to live up to the Paris Agreement. Meanwhile, the environmental movement has gained momentum, primarily due to the energetic youth climate movement.
The current coronavirus crisis and climate threats underline a similar reality: we are all vulnerable and we all connected. To solve them we must collaborate and be coordinated in our approach. Coronavirus is an example of what goes wrong when leaders fail to act on science.
Earth Day was founded in part to highlight the connection between human wellbeing and biodiversity. This inspired the Endangered Species Act. However, 50 years later, global biodiversity is on the verge of collapse. The United Nations has projected that centuries of fossil fuel use, urbanisation and deforestation will lead to the extinction of more than one million species by 2100.
In just 10 years, University College London reports that climate change-driven mass extinctions are expected to be sudden and catastrophic as plants and animals are exposed to higher temperatures. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the five warmest years from 1880 to 2019 have all occurred since 2015.
Furthermore, a number of researchers say that humanity’s destruction of biodiversity creates conditions for new viruses and diseases to arise, such as COVID-19, thus bringing profound health and economic impacts to rich and poorer countries.
Could 2020 be the year we stop taking our planet for granted?
As we know, the 50th anniversary of Earth Day falls at a time when the health of people and nature has never been more important. Now more than ever, Earth Day offers an opportunity for us to reflect upon our relationship with the planet.
This year held great promise for environmental change on the back of pressure for global action. A number of international conferences have been postponed that were due to take place this year. There was talk of nature as the bridge between the biodiversity and climate crises, of nature-based solutions such as forestation, peatland restoration as well as the protection of mangroves.
Despite conferences not taking place this year, we cannot afford to lose focus, to continue to take our planet for granted and to exploit its resources. Lockdown offers a time for reflection and from this, there is hope that there will be a greater appreciation for nature when restrictions are lifted. Furthermore, communities are being more supportive of one another and this spirit should be harnessed to look out for those further afield from our families, friends and neighbours.
What can one do to make a difference?
Due to the global coronavirus pandemic, celebrations are limited to our immediate and virtual surroundings. Even though we are not able to take part in community or tree planting initiatives, there are many other ways in which you can make a difference, activities that are good for the health of our planet and ourselves. Here are our three suggestions:
Support one of Explorations Plus’ Charity Partners
Determined to scale up previous philanthropic efforts, Nicola Shepherd established a charitable foundation on the company’s 30th anniversary. Explorations Plus is a channel for you to help our efforts in financing community improvement and biodiversity conservation. We have produced a handbook which details a range of organisations that are delivering sustainable initiatives on-the-ground in nearly all the countries and areas visited by our clients. All demonstrate high impact and value through established community outreach activities and/or conservation efforts. In this handbook, therefore, we highlight a range of global “partners” and the challenges they work to solve, citing recent achievements from their annual reports. In essence, we offer some fantastic opportunities for your support. Please take a look at our handbook and consider a donation through our foundation to support one of our partners. For more information, please email Rebecca Ward at [email protected] or call + 44 (0) 1367 850566.
Walks in Nature and Meditative Gardening
Studies have shown that 15 minutes immersed with nature can reduce stress levels and improve blood pressure. You might even feel less anxious, which is considerably needed during these difficult times.
Broaden Environmental Knowledge
Stream an eco-documentary on Netflix or visit the EarthxFilm website, an international non-profit environmental organisation showcasing environmental films and documentaries. Furthermore, The Nature Conservancy recently launched an Earth Month landing page featuring conservation stories as well as a new online learning platform called Nature Lab. There are also live streams across social media channels, from organisations such as the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Kenya, as well as live panel discussions on a range of environmental topics.
We need nature more than ever, as a solution, as a resource, for respite and for life on Earth.