And why should it matter to you?
This article is part of a series highlighting events and holidays from the sustainability calendar, your definitive guide to a year of climate action. Find out more here or read the monthly summary for April here.
What is Earth Day?
Earth Day is one of our oldest environmental awareness days, established in 1970 before many of us thought of nature as anything more than something to be used¹.
Earth Day celebrates nature in all its forms, our relationship with this planet and its planet-wide ecosystem. More information can be found on the official website.
This year’s theme is “Restore Our Earth”:
Restore Our Earth focuses on natural processes and emerging green technologies that can restore the world’s ecosystems. In this way, the theme rejects the notion that mitigation or adaptation are the only way to address climate change. (EarthDay.Org)
“Restore Our Earth” is all about ways in which we can change our existing activities to benefit nature, such as switching to regenerative agriculture, and finding ways to replenish nature², such as reforestation.
Why should it matter to you?
You live on Earth. You are part of this gloriously complex and massive ecosystem. The welfare of all its life forms should be important because everything is connected and we can’t lose even the smallest bit without causing damage to multiple other systems
You rely on nature for the air you breathe and the food you eat. You rely on nature for the physical, mental and spiritual wellness it provides. Your communities rely on nature for carbon sequestration³ and flood protection and shelter.
You need it in all manner of immeasurable ways, mostly unseen and un-thought of.
For example, let’s look at mangroves. As well as supporting biodiversity, mangrove forests around the world play a vital role in protecting communities from coastal erosion. They are also remarkably good at carbon sequestration. Yet, mangroves are at risk from coastal development and rising sea levels caused by climate change.
For an example closer to home (for most of us) consider local woodlands. Trees play a vital role in capturing and delaying rainwater to prevent downstream river flooding. Then there’s also the proven benefits that forests have on our physical and mental well-being. Regular indulgence in a bit of forest bathing could provide a health boost that will last for weeks.
Our own needs aside, the richness in diversity that this planet has is something unique and not to be squandered. Do we want to be the species that ends something that has taken millions of years to develop?
How you can get involved
There are a wealth of events to get involved in at the Earth Day website. Just use the map and filters to narrow down the events based on location, event type and accessibility. These range from activism to art, litter picks to environmental flicks, and much more.
Depending on where we are in the world, events near us may be a bit scarce. So, what to do if there isn’t an event near us?
We could organise an event. We may feel a bit short on time, but remember that the event doesn’t have to fall on Earth Day itself: it’s Earth Week all week and it’s Earth Month all month. There’s no lower limit on attendance. If we can get just a couple of mates or family members together for a litter pick, this counts.
Note, that some events are online and public, so it’s worth looking down the list. In this age of Zoom meetings and webinars, we’re not necessarily restricted by being in the same physical location as the event.
Failing that, we could do an individual activity in line with this year’s theme “Restore Our Earth”. Some ideas to get you thinking:
- Pick up litter
- Plant a plant to attract and support pollinators
- Plant a tree, either in real life or online
- Start a home compost
- Volunteer with Earth Day
- Make an Earth Day window sign, or
- Have a meat-free day, week or month
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals
Many of the goals are related to this event, but a particular emphasis is given to:
14 Life Below Water, and
¹ Or, I suspect, before many of us were even born
² The activities associated with replenishing nature are captured in the third aspect of a Circular Economy, to regenerate natural systems.
³ “Carbon sequestration is the process of capturing, securing and storing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.” (CLEAR Center)