Earth Day 2021: Origin, Gen Z’s Take, and Future Conservation Efforts

Earth Day Origin and Aims

Earth Day takes place on April 22. It is a day intended to inspire people to act to conserve and protect the environment. The 2021 Earth Day theme is “Restore our Earth.” This theme emphasizes the damage humans have inflicted on Earth, and hopes to move them to amend that damage. 

Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin made Earth Day an official day on April 22, 1970 because he wanted the issues within the environment to be addressed in politics, or at least by the media. 

Today, Earth Day is the largest observance in the world that one billion people every year participate in, to move humans to care about the earth, and change local, national, and international policies to better protect the environment.

Step up for Earth Day 2020 | GreenbizOn major Earth Day milestone, much of planet is on lockdown | Star Tribune

Mother Earth is in critical condition.

Mother Earth is suffering from global warming and climate change, pollution, biodiversity loss, among other threats.

Chart: 2016 Marks the Warmest Year on Record | Statista

Since the first Earth Day in 1970, the global temperature has risen 1° C (1.8° F). The warmest years globally (thus far) were 2016 and 2020. There is an urgency to stay under 1.5° C, as this point marks when glaciers in the Arctic will melt and submerge people’s homes. Other climate risks include water and food scarcity, insect outbreaks, and widespread poverty. The United Nations states that we have just 9 YEARS to prevent “irreversible damage.”

This warming results from people burning fossil fuels. Burning fossil fuels causes more carbon dioxide (CO2) to be emitted into the atmosphere. Thus, fossil fuel emissions today will determine the future state of the climate, leading to the earth warming anywhere from 0.2° C to 4° C in the next two decades.

An unhealthy environment devastatingly impacts everyone, especially Generation Z and the future generations, who will have to solve the problems older generations have created and ignored.

Therefore, WE NEED CLIMATE ACTION NOW.

Gen Z in the Climate Movement

Gen Z grew up with climate change, and as of 2019, 57% of Gen Z believes global warming is the greatest issue of our time, according to Amnesty International. Gen Z directly tackles climate change through spreading awareness of the issue, striking online and on the streets to pressure governments to act, and individually working to reduce their carbon footprints. 

The first Global Day of Action took place in 2005. However, in 2018, Greta Thunberg, a 15 year-old climate activist from Sweden, transformed the climate movement by creating “a global attitudinal shift,” said Time editors. She skipped school every Friday to strike for climate action (and continues to today), which led to the Fridays For Future movement. Fridays for Future Digital strikes in the same way, just online for climate action.

The first climate strike and largest day of action was on Sept. 20 of 2018. 4 million people showed. In a week of protests in 2019, from Sept. 20-26, 11 million people from 150 countries took to the streets. The first Global Climate Strike in 2021 was on March 19, with the theme #NoMoreEmptyPromises.

Global Climate Strike could make history: What you need to know - Los  Angeles Times

What climate strikes accomplish is demand that governments act to mitigate climate change, such as by declaring a climate emergency. They have had impacts, such as forcing political parties to address climate change in their campaigns for elections. They also offer agency and hope to youth.

Other organizations that organize climate strikes include School Strike for Climate, Future Coalition, Zero Hour, Extinction Rebellion, the Sunrise Movement, among many others.

Social Media’s Role and Actions Within it

Social media plays a prominent role in spreading information about the climate movement. It is the reason that people know about events and can join together to act for the climate. Along with striking, there are influential opportunities you can take part in:

  • You can lobby Congress through the Citizens’ Climate Lobby, a volunteer-led organization focused on the advocacy and policy fields of environmental activism. Opportunities include calling, writing, and tweeting Congress, training for climate advocacy, and volunteering as a caller for the monthly calling campaign. 
  • Emailing officials for climate action, combined with your personal concerns about the environment, makes a difference. For example, you can send a letter to your local representatives, senators, and governor to fund research to protect and restore blue ecosystems.
  • Sign and/or create petitions that advocate to make climate change a core curriculum requirement, protect rainforests, and ban environmentally harmful products such as fireworks, single-use plastics, etc. Currently, you can sign a petition at hsi.org/SaveRalph that is working to ban cosmetic testing on animals in the US, Mexico, Brazil, and other countries.

Youth Climate Justice Activists and Organizations to Know

  • Isra Hirsi (she/her): An activist from the U.S who co-founded and is the executive director of U.S. Youth Climate Strike. She works to represent everyone and especially highlight communities most impacted by climate change, such as black and brown communities.
  • Vanessa Nakate (she/her): An activist from Uganda who founded Youth for Future Africa and the Africa-based Rise Up Movement. She raises awareness of climate change and has led various projects, such as a campaign to save Congo’s rainforest that is undergoing deforestation.
  • Jerome Foster II (he/him): An activist from the U.S who serves as the executive director of OneMillionOfUs, which unites youth coalitions between racial equality, gender equality, immigration reform, gun violence, and climate change movements, and mobilizes young people to vote in their national elections. He is also the co-editor-in-chief of the Climate Reporter, a blog speaking environmental truths.
  • Mitzi Jonelle Tan (she/her): An activist from the Philippines who is a leader and spokesperson for the Youth Advocates for Climate Action Philippines. She advocates and works to amplify the voices of Most Affected Peoples and Areas strikers.
  • John Paul Jose (he/him): An activist from India for Greenpeace and Fridays For Future India. He has collaborated with organizations such as the United Nations Environment Programme and often speaks to how global warming impacts forests and ecosystems in India.

EDUCATE YOURSELF AND OTHERS 

  • Learn further about the causes and effects of climate change, and what short and long-term solutions there are. FutureLearn and edX are some sites that offer (mostly free) environmental science courses.
  • Keep up with current events. You can begin by following @cnnclimate, @intersectionalenvironmentalist, and @unclimatechange on Instagram.
  • Join a youth climate group to learn, connect, and act. 

REDUCE, REUSE, AND RECYCLE

  • Reduce your consumption, and when you shop for wants, shop sustainably. Good on You is an app that rates stores or companies based on how environmentally friendly they are.
  • Use less energy (or even better, at home, switch to using renewable energy), such as by streaming on devices less. Energysage has a list of influential and efficient ways to conserve energy at home.
  • Reduce your food waste, and eat more plant-based options. There are many vegan and vegetarian blogs across the web managed by nutrition experts, such as Fresh Is Real, Planted and Picked, and Pickles ‘N Honey

DONATE to or spread the word about climate justice organizations such as The Coalition for Rainforest Nations, 350.org, and Direct Relief International. Moreover, indeginous communities from the Amazon are currently battling COVID-19 and floods that the pandemic has worsened the impacts of. Floods have destroyed crop fields, leaving families to suffer food shortages. You can donate at https://gofund.me/e980439e.

Other Resources

Resource for coping with Eco-Anxiety: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/327354#overview 

Articles: How to Stop Global Warming (NRDC), Why the Fight for Climate Justice is a Fight for Justice Itself (Landscape News)

Documentaries: How the Climate Crisis and Systemic Racism are Deeply Connected (Youtube), Environmental Racism Explained (Youtube) A Life on our Planet (Netflix), Kiss the Ground (Netflix)

Intersectionality in the Climate Movement

The climate movement has become increasingly whitewashed. However, it is necessary that BIPOC voices are centered in environmentalism, as it is often Black and Brown or low-income communities who are most affected by lack of environmental protection.

Environmental Justice

ensures that socioeconomic status, race, and location are taken into account when fighting for improved climate polices.

Indigenous people have cultivated the land for centuries, and it is in their footsteps we must follow in order to heal the land.


Sources

http://www.americaslibrary.gov/jb/modern/jb_modern_earthday_1.html 

https://www.epa.gov/history/epa-history-earth-day#:~:text=In%20spring%201970%2C%20Senator%20Gaylord,U.S.%20cities%2C%20and%20it%20worked

https://www.greenbiz.com/article/step-earth-day-2020

https://www.startribune.com/on-major-earth-day-milestone-much-of-planet-is-on-lockdown/569840532/

http://www.beachapedia.org/Plastic%27s_Impact_on_Climate_Change 

https://www.statista.com/chart/7744/average-global-temperature-since-1880/

https://www.forbes.com/sites/emanuelabarbiroglio/2019/12/09/generation-z-fears-climate-change-more-than-anything-else/?sh=724fc02501ba

https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/important-moments-climate-history-in-photos/

https://www.businessinsider.com/greta-thunberg-bio-climate-change-activist-2019-9

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/climate-change-generation-z-fight-cbsn-originals/

https://royalsociety.org/topics-policy/projects/climate-change-evidence-causes/question-1/

https://www.un.org/press/en/2019/ga12131.doc.htm


Written by: Jackie Vandermel

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