EARTH DAY- April 22
What do we mean by Earth Day? Everybody thinks that it is supporting the environment and in that general sense we are very right. We do not know when it started and how it started, but we think it is a good thing. We would be right on a very surface level but we need to know how it came about and why.
Britain, for example, passed the Clean Air Act in 1956 as we were suffering from severe smog in the cities. The USA needed to follow suit and in 1970 a student called Denis Hayes and an American Senator called Gaylord Nelson set up Earth Day to support the environment and think about peace. There was huge support for environmental protection and President Nixon set up the Environmental Protection agency which started new thinking on limiting pollution and developing recycling issues. In 1971, Greenpeace was started by a group of Canadians and Americans and in 1972 the UN set up World Environmental Day. It was clear that as far back as the 70s, there was a deep concern about the environment and protecting the planet. So, as you can see, protecting the environment is not a new idea but the ability to maintain this them over the years has been almost impossible .
In 1979, Traidcraft were the original fair trade pioneers in the UK, advocating the importance of organic farming, sustainability and transparency to the lives of growers and artisans around the world., introducing the first fair trade tea, coffee and sugar to the UK. In 1981, the British Charity Wateraid was set up because there was this awareness that in the developing world, saving the environment meant also providing water. In 1985, France sent secret service agents in diving gear, who attached explosives to the hull of Greenpeace’s ship the Rainbow Warrior because they were preparing to demonstrate against French nuclear testing in the Moruroa Atoll in New Zealand. Their photographer, Fernando Pereira, was killed. Greenpeace replaced it with a new vessel and for 20 years the second Rainbow Warrior has campaigned for a green and peaceful future. The name Rainbow Warrior comes from the native Americans, the Cree nation, who stated that , “When the world is sick and dying, the people will rise up like warriors of the Rainbow”.
In 1990, Earth day goes global, on its 20th anniversary in the USA and this brought together 200 million people in 141 countries. In 1992, activists from the developing world, especially the Mexican small –scale coffee farmers appealed for Fairness in trade. British activists responded to the call and the Fairtrade Foundation was established by CAFOD, Christian Aid, Oxfam, Traidcraft, the World Development Movement and the National Federation of Women’s Institutes. Through the years, Earth Day brought environmental issues to the fore and activists tried to inspire the world. Greenpeace continued its activities fighting the oil companies etc.
In 1999, the theme for Earth Day was Anti-industrial pollution, bringing to the fore the amount of damage that industry has done to the environment. Then in the year 2000, was the first time that global warming was mentioned as a theme for Earth Day. The point about Earth Day is that it highlights the environmental issues of the day and makes people think about the problems we are having to face. It makes governments realise that the people want them to react to protect the planet and how important it is to us.
In 2003, Earth Day looked at Water for Life as a theme and this links back to Wateraid’s influence. Earth Day in 2004 underscored the fact that we are destroying the rain forests and the theme was tree planting although the Amazon rainforests were being lost at a faster rate than the number of trees being planted. However it demonstrated that we had so much to do about trees which are so important to the environment, our lungs, if you will. In 2005, the theme for Earth Day was Healthy Environment for children. This highlighted the fact the so many more children suffer from asthma and other breathing problems of which pollution plays a huge part.
This lead very smoothly on to the theme in 2006 of at last looking at climate change which activists have been focusing on for years. There was at last an official acknowledgement that this was really happening . Again in 2008, theme was climate change in spite of the climate change deniers and then in 2009, the realisation that Global Warming was here to stay unless we do something about it. This is the long term heating of the Earth’s climate system observed 1850. Nine of the ten warmest years have occurred since 2005. In 2010, the 40th anniversary of Earth Day the theme was a Green Economy and Wateraid became an international charity working worldwide to bring water to the developing world. In 2011, there was a return to trees and deforestation , trying to make people aware as to how important trees are to the planet.
From 2012 – 2021, the themes of Earth Day ranged from
- a billion acts of green
- the face of climate change, Green cities, It’s our turn to lead-
- Green cities
- It’s our turn to lead
- Trees for earth
- Green technology and jobs
- End plastic pollution.2018- This was the year when Greta Thunberg at the age of 15 began to call for action on climate change
- Protect our species.
Then in 2020 the Covid pandemic erupted and changed our world forever. Earth Day produced the largest on-line live demonstration. It was also the 50th anniversary of Earth Day.
This year the theme is Restore our Earth. It makes us aware of all the damage we have done to the planet and how much work we have to do to save it. This is why we should all support Earth Day but continue the struggle after Earth Day is over. We must continue to save and restore the planet. As Thunberg says “our house is on fire” and we must protect the future for the young people, the future generations. Fairtrade also makes the point with Greta that the global south will suffer the most even though they have contributed least in terms of carbon dioxide emissions. Fairtrade’s theme for Fairtrade Fortnight was Climate, Fairtrade and You. The struggle for the planet must continue.