This April 22 marks the 51st annual Earth Day. I remember as a kid in elementary school that we would do activities such as planting trees and flowers, learning about how to reduce waste (although recycling wasn’t common back then), and (gasp!) watching filmstrips about environmental impacts in far-flung places around the world- who remembers being the lucky kid who got to advance the film at each bell ring? This year for Earth Day, I thought it would be fun to look at activities that are going on to raise awareness about sustainable living, decreasing carbon dioxide output, and other climate and environmental issues.
Earth Day began in 1970 after Senator Gaylord Nelson (Wisconsin) announced his idea for a teach-in on college campuses to bring awareness and energy to environmental issues. Very soon, the idea took off and numerous groups and individuals collaborated to protest against oil spills, pollution due to factories, toxic dumps, and other negative environmental impacts brought on by decades of development. Support for the movement was found across both sides of the political divide, across high and low incomes, and across rural and urban dwellers. The creation of the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970 was a direct result of the movement, as was the Clean Water Act, passed two years later (https://www.earthday.org/history/).
This year, Earthday.org is hosting a three day event (April 20-22) with ways for many to participate. A youth summit will take place on April 20, on April 21 a multilingual summit will address the importance of education, and on Earth Day, April 22, there will be a live digital event with workshops, panels, and performances. You can click on this link to see a map of events occurring around the world, and events can still be registered to appear on the map as well.
There are so many other resources for anyone looking to educate themselves about the environment or learn about steps they can take to live more sustainably on a personal or community level. Climate Central is a great resource to learn about how scientists are diagnosing changes in the climate – real science is explained in a simple, easy-to-understand manner (something we at STM are passionate about!!!), and there are numerous graphics to look at as well. Every statistic is sourced and often includes references to the original research.
At Project Drawdown, you can find this helpful resource which covers numerous ways to reduce carbon sources and increase carbon sinks (such as trees!). For each category, such as agriculture, electricity, transportation, and others, there are specific actions which are environment-friendly, and discussion about the impacts each can have.
NOAA has some great resources to learn about climate change and personal responsibility. Here, you can learn about how humans influence our climate. The videos and activities are geared for teachers and students, but are really helpful for anyone looking to learn more. The NOAA Climate Resilience Toolkit is a very easy-to-use website which has volumes of information on building climate resilience. You can learn about specific risks in your community by playing with their various tools, and also find applicable, practical steps you can take (individually and as a community) to address environmental concerns which are most relevant to you in your area.
The bottom line is that all of us can make small adjustments to how we live more sustainably. It is so easy to think that what we as one person, one family are doing doesn’t really have an impact, but the science shows that the reverse is true. This Earth Day, see if you can come up with one or two ways that you and your family can take steps toward this goal.