Words by Daisy Olyett / feature image by Kat Mallett
Thursday 22nd April marks the 71st annual Earth Day, an event dedicated since its creation to the preservation and protection of the environment against looming threats such as climate change, pollution and deforestation. Whilst the very first Earth Day in 1970 was established in reaction to the Santa Barbara oil spill the previous year, this year’s Earth Day will be addressing a far larger scope of environmental issues on a global scale. World leaders, celebrities, climate activists as well as the average person will be taking part in the Earth Day celebrations spanning from 20st-22nd April.
As emissions return to pre-pandemic levels and our economies start to slowly reopen, now is the time for our hopes for a greener future to finally come to fruition. As a result, the chosen theme for this year’s Earth Day is “Restore Our Earth”, where unlike previous years there will not only be an emphasis on stopping further destruction of our ecosystems but there will be a focus on correcting the damages we have made to our environment. The three days of climate action that are set to take place include a range of discussions/talks that can be attended virtually as well as a huge variety of community based initiatives that you can find via the official Earth Day website.
On the 20th April partnerships between youth climate activist groups such as Earth Uprising, My Future My Voice and One Million of Us have arranged for Greta Thunberg, Alexandria Villaseñor and Licypriya Kangujam to speak at their summits. That particular day will be dedicated to the effects of pollution on marginalised communities as well as issues such as police brutality which have become increasingly more apparent. The focus in these discussions will be primarily on acts such as the proposed Zero-Emission Vehicles Act that aims for all new passenger vehicles by 2040 to be emission-free. As marginalised and non-white communities are far more likely to live in areas with higher rates of emissions this leaves them vulnerable to respiratory, cardiac, reproductive and immune problems. Such bills will be considered in U.S. congress on 22nd where President Joe Biden will be present.
21st April will be dedicated to how we can improve teaching about the climate crisis to better inform children as well as adults about the climate crisis. This part of the event will feature a “Teach for the Planet: Global Education Summit” which is open to all and available in a variety of different languages (further information is available through the official Earth Day “teach-in” initiatives). This was anticipated by the worrying statistic according to SOS-UK that 70% of teachers feel unable to properly teach their students about the climate crisis. On top of this 92% of teachers are concerned about climate change but feel that it isn’t mentioned nearly enough in the syllabus. This Earth Day if you’d like to learn more about how we can support a sustainable future you can also tune into Cardiff University’s For Alumni By Alumni show where they’ll be discussing how we too can restore our earth at a local level and what effect the pandemic has had on this mission at 17:30 on Thursday.
The official Earth Day (22nd) will be dominated by Biden’s Administration Global Climate Summit at 129m Eastern time in the U.S. congress. Here Biden will be addressing how to reduce emissions, off-setting these emissions and protecting populations from climate change. There will also be talks considering the uses of natural processes and emerging green technologies to restore damaged ecosystems. 40 world leaders are expected to attend the summit which will be streamed for public viewing, with hopes that now Biden has re-entered the U.S. in the Paris Agreement that important steps to solve the climate crisis will be made this Thursday.
Closer to home, here in Wales, natural processes such as the reintroduction of beavers to the countryside are expected to combat issues such as flooding since their almost extinction in the 16th century. Unfortunately issues of mass littering such as those we saw at Cardiff Bay at the start of our recent heat wave have highlighted issues of pollution in our area. However, this Earth Day you can get involved with creating a greener Cardiff by taking part in clean-ups such as those hosted by The Big Tiny Rebel or other events via Eventbrite (https://www.eventbrite.com/d/united-kingdom–cardiff/earth-day-events/). Instead of this you could take on smaller acts to spread awareness such as signing petitions or making Earth Day signs for your window, as well as raising concerns about your climate education with your academic school.
Whilst we use Earth Day as a time to reflect on the climate crisis and plan for a more sustainable future, the key is to think long-term. Not only should we be educating ourselves about the climate crisis on Earth Day but these need to become daily practices that can ensure that we reverse the damage we’ve done as best we can.