Earth Day, a day dedicated to the planet which we exist on and a sombre reminder of the beautiful place we inhabit. As climate justice has become more part of mainstream conversation within recent years, this day is an overt reminder of the rate which the Earth’s climate is deteriorating.
Beginning in America in 1970, Earth Day was the catalyst for the modern environmentalist movement and response to the catastrophic effects of the industrial revolution and globalisation. This day was meant to create a universal consciousness with the Earth, bringing awareness to the deterioration of ecology, impacts of air pollution, consumerist culture and the many other factors impacting the Earth’s climate. In 1970, 20 million Americans took to the streets actively speaking out against the serious implications climate change and the continued path of global destruction we are going down. Since then, the movement has only grown, however, as the movement has, so has the climate crisis. Consumerism is at an all-time high, the population continues to grow, and our demands have exceeded what the Earth can offer. Change is necessary. Movements such as Extinction Rebellion have become vital in bringing awareness to the climate crisis with figures like Greta Thunberg challenging leaders 50 years her seniors in their response to the climate crisis. But whilst this all progress, there is still more to be done.
Whilst this is a day of reflection and praise it is also equally dedicated to climate action, a sinister reminder of the irreparable destruction we have caused. We have been universally plunged into an awakening that our actions are not sustainable, yet we still lack the response necessary to combat this. As an individual it can seem futile to stop the rate of climate change as big corporations disproportionately destroy and strip the Earth of its natural resources, governments fail to regulate this or even to acknowledge the climate crisis and act on this accordingly. However, on Earth Day small changes in our lives can make a difference. Mindful consumptions, education, limiting waste, using public transport, eating less meat, and more can all help us to become more ethical beings. However, it is important to recognise that being able to act in this way is a privilege. The destruction of the Earth is not just a climate issue, but one which intersects with public health and class. A recent report stated the wealthiest 1% are driving carbon emissions and this will disproportionately effect those living in low-income communities and developing countries. Low-income families heavily rely on agriculture which each year is becoming more disrupted by rising temperatures and extreme weather. Access to clean water is becoming hindered. The air is becoming more and more polluted affecting the health of those who may not have access to health care. Recognising the intersection of global warming with social issues is extremely important in driving climate justice. Ultimately it is up to governments and larger corporations to change their approaches towards the Earth, however as people we can only rally our support in favour of those actions which are making changes and hold those in power responsible for their failures on our planet and communities. The emphasis on togetherness is key in committing to creating a more sustainable planet.
These views on climate justice are shared by many. I spoke to a few of these groups who are rallying for climate justice and sustainability about what Earth Day meant for them. HS2 Rebellion, an environmentalist group trying to halt the creation of the destructive railway, HS2, in the UK, said ‘Nature means everything to us, it is our life support system. It provides our food, our water, our air, uplifts our minds and enriches our cultures. We oppose HS2 because it does none of these, and the irreversible destruction it is inflicting on ancient habitats and wild animals across it’s entire route is unforgivable. We are in the midst of a climate and ecological emergencies, along with being in a time of social crisis, and we need the natural world as our main ally to help us on all of these fronts.’
Similarly, Friends of Shillingford Wood a fundraiser on the Givey platform attempting to raise fund to preserve their local woodland stated, ‘We as “Friends of Shillingford Wood” are trying to preserve a little piece of Devon, a small wood that we would keep untouched, as a haven for wildlife and for walkers to enjoy at their leisure.’ This is a metaphor for the larger issues facing our planet and those species who exist upon it. As more destruction happens, our planet suffers and so do we.
Be the Difference, an organisation working with philanthropists and businesses to increase their social impact stated, ‘everyday should be Earth Day, however, today is a good day to think about the planet we live on. Everything is interconnected and interrelated, so at Be the Difference we work in line with the UN’s SDGs to create a more sustainable planet for all. Protecting the Earth is everybody’s responsibility and businesses should be a force for good and so we embed this idea into our practices.’
Finally, WaterHarvest is a UK-based non-profit organisation that uses rainwater harvesting to provide people in remote Indian communities with clean water, a basic human right. Aligning with the ethos of sustainability and global development WaterHarvest aim to ‘provide safe drinking water, regenerate land and enable livelihoods – closely aligning with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular the goal to achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all by 2030’.
Whilst all these group are offering different spaces for change-making, they are all working to facilitate change for the planet, impact being at the core of their goals.
Earth day, if nothing else, is a chance to become more aligned with nature and our surroundings. It is important to reflect on all that the Earth offers, physically, mentally, spiritually. It is our biggest learning tool, facilitating a space for us to thrive. It is a special opportunity to exist here, and as individual we still can create positive change, however small that may be.
The Uninhabitable Earth by David Wallace-Wells
The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben
Shinrin-Yoku: The Art and Science of Forest Bathing by Dr. Qing Li
Silent Spring by Rachel Carson
Art by @mymumsfridgedoor
Writing by Abigail Tate