Earth Day Everyday: Educate. Brainstorm. Act.

Cindy Liu


Introduction

To most people, April 22 is just an ordinary date on the calendar. But for me, it has always been a treasured date. Not only is it my birthday, it’s a day we are able to celebrate the ground below us, the air around us, and the beauty that envelopes us. After all, every single person is dependent on its resources and generosity.

On April 22, we celebrate Earth Day. But is a single day really enough?



On April 22, we celebrate Earth Day. But is a single day really enough?

April 22

Everyone remembers your birthday if it’s on a holiday like Christmas, or Canada Day, or New Year’s. When I was younger, I was so proud to share my special day with Earth Day. However, I was quickly faced with the harsh reality: unlike New Year’s babies, people never remembered my birthday or even worse, they would refuse to recognize Earth Day as a holiday. As an ever-so-slightly dramatic child, I would cry every time someone tried to deny our Earth of its own holiday.

But as I’ve matured, I’ve begun to view these occurrences in a different light. The critics do have a point—why celebrate this amazing life-sustaining planet on April 22nd, only to continue killing it the next morning? A single day of awareness doesn’t accomplish very much when you consider the magnitude of our destruction. Maybe there is something to the idea that our planet doesn’t need a day of celebration.Shouldn’t we instead celebrate it every day of the year? Rather than limiting our association with sustainable practices to April 22, we need to promote environmental stewardship and activism year round. Let’s make everyday Earth Day.


Earth Day: The Idea

Earth Day has been a growing worldwide observance since 1970 that now involves 192 countries [1]. The idea was first founded by Gaylord Nelson, a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin after the 1969 oil spill in Santa Barbara, California [2]. He believed that the public support and demand for a healthy and sustainable environment would finally attract the attention of national politicians [3]. In its debut year, Earth Day involved an estimated twenty million people, ten thousand schools, two thousand colleges, and one thousand communities [4]. That was enough to get the attention of the politicians; in the same year, the Environmental Protection Agency was established and the Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts was passed [5][6]. Nelson recalled, “It was a gamble but it worked.” {7}

Mindless consumerism and mass industrialization form the basis for many of our problems. These are forces that no single person—not Gaylord Nelson, not political leaders, not yourself—can stop; if we want to create change, we need to make a collective effort to alter our lifestyles. The formation of Earth Day is only one example of how entire communities, cities, nations can come together to promote awareness, education, and activism for positive change. While change will not come immediately, we need to start somewhere.


Educate. Brainstorm. Act.

So what can you do to make a difference? Start by educating yourself. Ignorance is not bliss and it is never an excuse. Start by identifying a problem—for example, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch which is now 1.6 million square kilometers, 80,000 metric tons, and is three times the size of France [8]. The reason? Human thoughtlessness. Not only is the GPGP unpleasant to look at, it poses threats to marine life, human health, and economics. However, simple knowing these facts and sympathizing for the cute turtles in our ocean doesn’t accomplish anything. DON’T STOP NOW. You are only just getting started.

Next step: brainstorm. In my opinion, getting started is the hardest mental barrier to overcome. Force yourself to sit down with a piece of paper and a pencil and just think, what can I do to help solve this problem? In our example of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, your list might consist of drinking tap water instead of bottled water, investing in reusable straws, or BYOC (bring your own cup) to Starbucks. In reality, your list could be endless. DON’T STOP NOW.


Finally, it’s time to do something about it. Challenge yourself to act upon at least one thing from your list. Ask your family and friends to join you, or at the very least, keep you accountable. It’s within each and every single one of us to reduce our impact on the Earth. Once we recognize that our baby steps are part of a changing global footprint, the magnitude of the challenge is no longer as daunting.

Let’s celebrate the Earth, everyday.


Does that mean I can celebrate my birthday everyday?


References

[1] The History of Earth Day. Earth Day Network. https://www.earthday.org/about/the-history-of-earth-day/. Retrieved: 09/08/2018

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

{4] Nelson, Gaylord. (08/12/1990). Statement of Gaylord Nelson at Madison Beyond War Ceremony. The Wilderness Society. http://www.nelsonearthday.net/docs/nelson_230-11_beyond_war_speech_8Dec90.pdf. Retrieved: 09/08/2018

[5] EPA History: The Origins of EPA. United States Environmental Protection Agency. https://www.epa.gov/history/origins-epa. Retrieved: 09/08/2018

[6] Clean Air Act Requirements and History. United States Environmental Protection Agency. https://www.epa.gov/clean-air-act-overview/clean-air-act-requirements-and-history. Retrieved: 09/08/2018

[7] Nelson, Gaylord. (08/12/1990). Statement of Gaylord Nelson at Madison Beyond War Ceremony. The Wilderness Society. http://www.nelsonearthday.net/docs/nelson_230-11_beyond_war_speech_8Dec90.pdf. Retrieved: 09/08/2018.

[8] Boone, Alastair. (27/03/2018). The Great Pacific Garbage Patch Is Growing. CityLab. https://www.citylab.com/environment/2018/03/the-great-pacific-garbage-patch-is-growing/556562/. Retrieved: 09/08/2018.

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