1970 was the first time that April 22 was celebrated as Earth Day, it has since become a globally co-ordinated event that supports environmental protection.
But why is this important? Why do we have one day a year where we support and raise awareness for environmental protection?
This year, the Paris Agreement is scheduled to be signed on Earth Day by as many as 120 countries, binding them in an agreement with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change that focuses on the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions.
While I do support this agreement, I am at the same time frustrated with a few of its standpoints. There does not seem to be any real aspirations to address climate change, especially in an aggressive manner. Instead, the Paris Agreement is just urging its participants to do more over time without a lot of structure. While the aim is to reduce our carbon footprint, the broad language used does not inspire confidence in many of the Paris Agreement’s critics.
If the Paris Agreement had a more aggressive take on reducing emissions, I truly believe that less than a handful of the signing countries would still participate. Our culture is one of debt and constant borrowing; we pass our debts off to the next generation. We have taken steps toward sustainability, but we are still dependant on non-renewable resources and will continue to be. The next generation to take the world will be conflicted; deciding to commit to sustainable lifestyles, likely creating radical cultural change, or to continue what their ancestors have done. Could we, as the current controlling generation make these changes and cut ties with the familiarity we live in?
Sadly, I believe not.
Yet, Earth Day is bringing communities and nations together to recognize environmental protection. Elk Valley schools are hosting Earth Day activities where students are encouraged to walk or bike to school and participate in events such as trash collection. Wildsight has an entire afternoon of events planned for their Earth Day celebrations, complete with a speaker series and a seed swap.
There have been many steps taken toward a more environmentally friendly planet, on both local and international levels.
Individuals like Elon Musk, who is a pillar in the electric automobile industry with his company Tesla. Tesla has made steps toward sustainability but are also a part of larger less-sustainable projects like his SpaceX company, which is into the space tourism industry, which certainly does not use renewable propulsion fuel.
In the United States, a group of 21 teenagers from Oregon are suing the federal government over the state of the environment. They claim that the federal government’s failure to act on climate change has infringed on their constitutional rights to life, liberty, property and equal protection. Even if the case doesn’t move forward, it provides a layer of optimism to the situation. People want to make changes to protect the environment, and it shows.