Prof. Sunil Goyal
“The Earth is what we all have in common” the famous quote of Wendell Berry, but it needs our help to thrive. That’s why each year on April 22, more than a billion people celebrate Earth Day to protect the planet from things like pollution and deforestation. By taking part in activities like picking up litter and planting trees, we’re making our world a happier, healthier place to live. Just as Valentine’s Day nudges us to cherish our loved ones a little more, Earth Day is a reminder to dedicate our time, resources, and energy to solving climate change and other environmental issues. April 22, 2023, marks the 53rd anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement. Earth Day has been celebrated since 1970. It was first observed in the United States, when people took to the streets to protest against the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill, which killed thousands of seabirds, dolphins, seals, and sea lions. Factories pumped pollutants into the air, lakes and rivers with few legal consequences. Big, gas-guzzling cars were considered a sign of prosperity. Only a small portion of the American population was familiar with–let alone practiced–recycling. In the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s (UNESCO) Conference held in 1969 San Francisco, peace activist John McConnell proposed a day to honour the Earth first to be celebrated on March 21, 1970, the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere. This day of nature’s equipoise was later sanctioned in a proclamation written by McConnell and signed by Secretary General U Thant at the United Nations. A month later a United States Senator Gaylord Nelson proposed the idea to hold a nationwide environmental teach-in on April 22, 1970. He hired a young activist, Denis Hayes, to be the National Coordinator. Nelson and Hayes renamed the event “Earth Day.” The first Earth Day was focused on the United States. In 1990, Denis Hayes, the original national coordinator in 1970, took it international and organized events in 141 nations. What was first celebrated on April 22, 1970, as a day of environment preservation in the US has now become a global day to promote a large-scale push for clean habitats around the world.
In a study conducted by the journal Science, scientists estimate that 8.8 million tons of plastic enter the ocean every year, threatening over 700 species of marine animals. Oil accidentally spilling into the sea, agriculture products like fertilizers and pesticides seeping into the soil, and even use of excess noise and light is polluting the environment. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), habitat loss is the main threat to about 85 percent of all endangered plant and animal species. Most experts agree that about 80,000 acres disappear every day when trees are cut down for lumber and land is cleared for farms. Grasslands, underwater habitats, and wetlands are also at risk of habitat loss. The World Wildlife Fund estimates that about half of the world’s wetlands have disappeared in the last hundred years due to being drained for farmland or other industries. That means less space for animals to feed, breed, and raise their young. Deforestation and forest degradation continue to take place at alarming rates, which contributes significantly to the ongoing loss of biodiversity. Agricultural expansion continues to be the main driver of deforestation and forest degradation and the associated loss of forest biodiversity. Between 2015 and 2020, the rate of deforestation was estimated at 10 million hectares per year, down from 16 million hectares per year in the 1990s. The area of primary forest worldwide has decreased by over 80 million hectares since 1990. It is estimated that over one billion plastic toothbrushes and two billion razors end up in landfills every year. 120 billion units of plastic packaging are produced for the cosmetic industry annually. Over 550 million shampoo bottles are thrown out every year. Cardboard packaging from the cosmetic industry contributes to the loss of 18 million acres of forest every year. To reduce the plastic waste consumers can switch to bamboo or eco-friendly products
From climate change to diversity loss the earth is in danger. Time is running out. The decisions we made in the past are threatening our present. The future of our lives hangs in our balance. But there is a hope if we all take action now. As children of mother Earth, it’s our responsibility to protect her. Our small steps in daily life to save earth can help her to thrive. The first thing we need to do is reset our behaviour towards the environment. This can include sustainable fashion, reduce, reuse, and recycle, volunteer for clean-ups in your community, furthering your own education, conserve water, use long-lasting light bulbs, plant, choose non-toxic chemicals in the home and office, home gardening etc.
(Author is Eminent Social Scientist, Columnist, and presently posted as Dean and Chairman – Board of Studies at Dr. B. R. Ambedkar University of Social Sciences, Dr. Ambedkar Nagar (MHOW), Madhya Pradesh. Email: [email protected])
Prof. Sunil Goyal