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Earth Day - What it means for us!

April 23, 2024

A short history by Prasad Pant, ZDHC Competence Centres Director.

If you log into Google today, you will see a strange doodle feature on the log in page.... these are aerial photos from Earth, highlighting some areas (in the shape of the letters G-O-O-G-L-E) where progress has been made towards a more sustainable future. It also reminds us of our planet’s beauty and biodiversity and the urgent need to protect it for our future generations. This is Google’s way to celebrate EARTH DAY today.

So, what is EARTH DAY and why should we celebrate it?

Earth Day is an annual event on April 22 to demonstrate support for environmental protection. (It is separate from the World Environment Day that is organized by the United Nations and held on 5th June every year).

First held on April 22, 1970, it now includes a wide range of events coordinated globally by EARTHDAY.ORG (formerly Earth Day Network).

The first Earth Day was focussed on the United States, but since then it has spread to over 193 countries where events are organized on a specific theme. The official theme for 2024 is "Planet vs. Plastics."

On Earth Day 2016, the landmark Paris Agreement was signed by the United States, theUnited Kingdom, China, and 120 other countries.

The seeds that grew into the first Earth Day were planted by Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson . His desire to protect our earth grew when the famous ‘Earthrise photograph’ of our blue earth was taken from the moon by NASA. He started environmental “teach-ins” at college campuses across the US to debate and discuss issues that impacted our earth. The first such “teach-in” was organized on April 22, 1970 and since then the“Earth Day” is celebrated on this day every year. Senator Nelson recruited Denis Hayes, an activist and an advertisement professional, to scale the idea of Earth Day to a broader public. Since then, Earth Day has included events that focused on fighting free ways, protecting the ozone layer, organic food, whales and endangered species, oil spills, the military use of Agent Orange in Vietnam, overpopulation, peeling lead paint in ghetto housing, opposition to the supersonic transport, and myriad other topics.

Earth Day 2020 marked the 50th Anniversary of the movement and the theme was 'climate action’, focussing on individual actions to reduce climate change such as diet, travel, household energy use, consumption of goods and family size.

The theme for Earthday.org 2024 is Planet vs. Plastics and to mark that Earthday.org has called for a 60% global reduction in plastic production by 2040.
In November 2023, to bring public attention to the health threat that microplastics pose, earthday.org released its report Babies vs. Plastics (https://www.earthday.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/11/BVP-Report.pdf), which collated some of the latest science on the subject.

-By Prasad Pant, ZDHC Competence Centres Director. LInkedIn