Earth Day 2020: The Need to Conquer Climate Change Now More Than Ever

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, a day not only dedicated to people showing their support for sustaining the environment but for celebrating how far we have come- and recognising how far we have to go.

As young people, climate change and environmental activism seems like something that has sprung into action only in our lifetime due to the popularity of figures such as Greta Thunberg, however, campaigns for the environment began as early as the 1960s. The 1962 publication of Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring- which focused on the effects of pesticides is often seen as the beginning of the modern environmental movement, especially in America. Campaigns for sustainability and organic eating campaigns also led to this movement continuing throughout the 1960s.

How far have we come in 50 years if environmental slogans from the 1960s and 70s are still relevant today?

The efforts of these environmental activists culminated in the introduction of Earth Day in 1970 created by Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson. Nelson was quoted as saying “the objective was to get a nationwide demonstration of concern for the environment so large that it would shake the political establishment out of its lethargy”. This message mirrors campaigns led by figures such as Greta Thunberg and David Attenborough who all urge government bodies globally to do more to save our planet. This can lead me to question, how far have we come in 50 years if environmental slogans from the 1960s and 70s are still relevant today?

The initial Earth Day saw millions of Americans, including students from thousands of colleges and universities, participating in rallies, marches and educational programs across the country. Last year, the Earth Day network recorded that over one billion people in 192 countries are thought to have taken part in last year’s event. Clearly, given the coronavirus pandemic, demonstrations such as these will not be taking place to mark Earth Day’s 50th anniversary, yet people are still showing support in different ways.

We can still collectively appreciate the wondrous beauty of our planet

NASA commented that even though we have to “physically separate ourselves by necessity, we can still collectively appreciate the wondrous beauty of our planet and the extraordinary science that helps us understand how it all works – and we can do it from our homes“. Events will be streamed online all week to celebrate Earth day whilst not being able to leave our homes. On Earth Day itself, the Earth Day Network demanded attention to environmental issues by flooding the digital landscape with global conversations, calls to action, performances, video teach-ins and more for 24 hours with the theme for this year being climate action.

Climate change is an issue that now affects our generation more than any other, so in this respect, this Earth Day could be seen as the most important in rallying support to help save our planet. Even though climate change and environmental activism receives more attention and is recognised by more people than it was in the 1960s, we still have a long way to go until these issues become priorities for people globally.

Paper straws, reusable cups and the increase in veganism are all factors that show how are world is adapting to help reduce pollution and fight climate change. However, small acts like these will soon mean nothing unless we find a way to get huge corporations and governing bodies on board who can encourage widespread and radical change.

Scientists have said we may only have 12 years before climate change is irreversible so this shows how people need to act now more than ever, but to make more progress in 12 years than we have done in the past 50 seems unlikely, unless people unite globally behind this cause. If we don’t, it may be too late. I hope that we never have to contemplate the opposite and adverse outcome to saving our planet.

Isabelle Raikes

Featured image courtesy of Booker Smith via Flikr. No changes made to this image. Image license found here. 

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