We’re taking this planet to the cleaners. I’d like to believe that most of us care but I also know that for many of us, as long as we are in comfort and not affected, the need to fix things is at best thought about. Maybe I’m being a cynic, maybe it’s just me. But the rate at which change is being affected is utterly atrocious. I think that if people truly understood or comprehended the state of things, no one would start their car tomorrow morning. There would be a world-wide and collective decision to ban the use of fossil fuels. That same collective would insist upon cleaner energy solutions and do away with the entrenched industries that continue to put profit over people. Unfortunately mankind is easily distracted. We’re distracted by our jobs, the news, entertainment, consumerism, money, social media, our smartphones and war. As a result, the importance of Earth Day 2018 cannot be further stressed.
How’d it All Come About?
Earth Day, celebrated on the 22nd of April, is done so all over the world and was originally founded in the country most responsible for the social and environmental ills of the world, the good old US of A. By the 1960s in America there was a discourse about the effects of pollution and it was made more apparent by Rachel Carson’s’ bestselling book, Silent Springs, a book that dealt with the harmful effect of pesticides. The person responsible for the establishment of Earth Day was a person by the name of Gaylord Nelson, a US senator from Wisconsin, who, through his push to create Earth Day, created a new wave of environmental activism.
From its infancy, Earth Day really grew; the first Earth Day celebrated in 1970 and mainly by college and university students, drew just over 1 million people in total. The 1990 20th Anniversary one drew over 200 million and at that point had the participation of 141 countries. Today, Earth Day is celebrated in 192 countries, draws the attention of over 17 000 environmental groups and is hosted in major cities. Host cities have included New York, London and Madrid.
What Does Earth Day Aim to Achieve?
Earth Day is held to create support for and awareness around the protection of the environment, and with each celebration has subsequently drawn a larger crowd and with it, a larger number of issues to tackle. Key areas of interest include the pollution of the ocean, the debris caused by landfills, conserving the earth’s ecosystem, climate change, overpopulation, nuclear issues, the ozone layer, soil corruption, corrosion and more.
I’m under no illusions. I’m optimistic about the idea that we can save this planet, but I also don’t buy into it wholeheartedly. There’s too much wrong with the world and there’s too much disinformation out there. With quick fix bits of information available on the internet, it’s easy to get caught up with the wrong information or to only know half the story. This fosters a social climate of confusion and disinterest – both which lead to the same outcome – nothing gets done. Can we turn back the clock? Very unlikely. To quote Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne in 2017’s Justice League movie: “We tend to think the doomsday clock had a snooze alarm.” Corny source material, but absolutely true. This movie might not have made the big bucks the studio brass were hoping for, but it was popular enough to get an online casino game made about it. But enough of the doom and gloom and shameless advertising, let’s focus on the positives, on what’s being done and on what could save us.
- The Ratification of Climate Change: Back in October of 2016, 55 countries accounting for 55% of the world’s greenhouse emissions ratified the Paris Climate Change Agreement. By the 4th of November of that same year, it came into effect. The aim of this agreement is to get the global increase in temperature to what it was during the time of pre-industrialist days, a mammoth task, especially when you consider that there is not real baseline or way to determine the actual pre-industrial level. Scientific speculation has lead this to be between the year 1720 and 1800.
- Less Reliance on Coal: Britain can boast about the fact that they’ve made their usage of electricity the cleanest it’s been in the last 60 years. Coal usage has seen quite a decline and in its place, renewables. But let’s talk about what’s impressive, namely Costa Rica. They don’t use coal at all. The country boasts a 100% green policy! They’re not betting all their money on one horse either. Wind, geothermal sources, solar and a solid hydroelectric infrastructure are seeing Costa Rica’s power needs through to completion. The runner-up’s are Canada, France, Denmark, Scotland, Sweden and Finland.
- Electric Cars are Real: They’re not just real, they’re gaining traction and have genuine and vested interests. All the big car companies have produced proper, full on electric cars and ones that can compete with the high performance fossil-fuelled vehicles too. While we’re still a while away from being Henry Forded, there are real reasons to believe that it’s happening; namely the fact that electric fuel costs could decrease through the greater use of green energy, which will feed the buyers markets and thus bring about a more affordable and more available electric car product.
- Wind Power could blow away the competition: Wind power is gaining greater traction around the world, and leading the way in terms of output or Megawatts is China. It makes sense that the world’s biggest country should have the world’s biggest wind-driven capabilities, especially given that most manufacturing in the modern world takes place in China! The US comes in at second place and thereafter it’s Germany. India holds 5th place and in 10th place is Brazil. Desert locations, low-wind areas and vast coastal regions are all being utilised for their ability to serve as prime locations for the setting up of wind-power plants.
- Lava! Norway: Scientists now believe that geothermal energy can be harnessed from areas known for volcanic activity. Norway, a country whose very existence is built on the backs of 130 volcanoes, is leading the way in utilising the power of said volcanoes. In fact, more than 25% of Norway’s electrical needs are now fulfilled by harnessing boiling temperature water. Through accessing magma-filled chambers, scientists have been able to use the heat to generate 450 degree steam, and in turn convert that into geothermal power. Geothermal plants have been constructed to tap the areas where magma is flowing within reach – that’s up to 5km below the surface!
- Leading the world: Nothing speaks volumes like leading by example and if we’re going to move more and more towards renewable energy, then we need leaders, innovators, beacons of hope and inspiration – countries to spearhead the movements. At this point the countries setting the trends and re-establishing the norms are Sweden, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Scotland, who, in 2015, was supplying all households with electricity by way of wind power.
Goals of Earth Day 2018
Earth Day 2018’s main aim is an end to plastic pollution, an ambitious but totally essential environmental need. Right now, as you’re reading this article, there are 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic lying in the ocean. 269 000 tons of this ocean plastic floats on the surface, while it is speculated that 4 billion plastic microfibers can be found per square kilometre of water. There is speculation that the amount of plastic in the ocean could outweigh the amount of marine life by 2050, a scientific assumption that is very believable when you consider the fact that every minute, one dump truck worth of plastic waste is tossed into the ocean.
Earth Day 2018 wants to create awareness, open up discourses and light enough fires to make sure that not only do we avoid 2050s foul prediction, but that we initiate changes that can bring about a permanent change. The plan is to focus on human attitude and behaviour around plastic, and it will implemented by the following means:
- The adoption of a global structure for the regulation of plastic pollution
- Educating the global population and getting said population to place pressure on government and corporations to curtail and tremendously lessen plastic pollution
- Inspire people to make personal changes by reusing plastic, rejecting plastic, reducing the use of plastic and to recycle plastic
- Working with educators, college institutes and students to bring about an end to the use of plastic
- Working with various organisations to establish Earth Day 2018 as a formidable foundation from which partnerships can be formed to end plastic pollution
- Notifying the global public about the in-roads being made by cities and local governments who are tackling plastic pollution
- Make available journalistic resources so that news about issues and solutions can be spread
Earth Day 2018 will be used to establish all the above-mentioned goals while also gearing up for the 50th Anniversary of the day, which will be celebrated in 2020. We can hope for success but we must also act if we are to be part of the solution and not part of the continuing problem.