Wednesday May 22, 2019

Earth Day 2019 Mark the Year to “Protect Our Species”

People will march, plant trees, clean up their cities, parks, beaches and waterways, politicians will announce policies, and corporations will pledge to work toward sustainability — all to mark Earth Day 2019

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FILE - An environmental militant shows an orange, painted as a globe, during an event to mark the Earth Overshoot Day on Aug. 1, 2018 in Berlin. It marks the date when we (all of humanity) have used more from nature than our planet can renew in the entire year. VOA

On April 22, more than 1 billion people in 192 countries are expected to take part in a global day of political and civic action for the Earth.

People will march, plant trees, clean up their cities, parks, beaches and waterways, politicians will announce policies, and corporations will pledge to work toward sustainability — all to mark Earth Day 2019.

Earth Day Network, the organization that leads Earth Day observances worldwide, has designated 2019 to be the year to “Protect Our Species.”

According to EDN, the theme was picked to highlight the fact that human activities are directly linked to what environmental journalist Elizabeth Kolbert refers to in her book, “The Sixth Extinction,” which describes a mass extinction caused by human activity rather than natural causes.

“The good news is that the rate of extinctions can still be slowed, and many of our declining, threatened and endangered species can still recover if we work together now to build a united global movement of consumers, voters, educators, faith leaders and scientists to demand immediate action,” EDN President Kathleen Rogers told VOA.

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FILE – Youths demonstrate with a banner reading “the greed for profit destroys our earth!” during the “Fridays For Future” movement on a global day of student protests aiming to spark world leaders into action on climate change, March 15, 2019 in Berlin. VOA

Earth Day brings, in general, a greater awareness to environmental concerns. The Pew Research Center released a report last week that found climate change was the top concern in half the countries it surveyed last year.

At the top of the list was Greece, where 90 percent of those surveyed called it a major threat and only 4 percent did not view climate change as a threat at all. Their concern was shared by residents of South Korea, France, Spain and Mexico, countries that ranked Nos. 2-5, respectively.

The survey also found that concern over climate change has been steadily rising around the world since 2013, when Pew first asked that question. That year, a median of 56 percent in 23 countries said climate change was a major threat.

In the most recent survey, a median of 67 percent in the same countries hold this view. The concern was also the highest among specific demographics — the educated, women and those between the ages of 18 and 26.

The rising awareness, especially among the young, is good news for EDN, which is looking ahead to next year when it marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. It has already launched several initiatives this year in hopes of seeing results by Earth Day 2020. Among them are:

 

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FILE – An Ariel view of thousands of Hindu devotees taking dips at Sangam, the confluence of three sacred rivers the Yamuna, the Ganges and the mythical Saraswati, on Mauni Amavsya or the new moon day. VOA

Earth Challenge 2020

EDN is working with the U.S. State Department and the Woodrow Wilson International Center to engage millions of people around the world to gather more than 1 billion data points in areas including air quality, water quality, biodiversity, pollution and human health.

The “citizen science” volunteers will gather information about their local conditions asking questions such as: What is in my drinking water? How does air quality vary locally? What is the extent of plastics pollution? How are insect populations changing? And is my food supply sustainable?

EDN is working with major tech companies to develop apps where the citizen scientists can upload the data they collect. The apps will also tell users what the information they collect means and offer suggestions on what else they can do to help the environment, Rogers said.

EDN hopes to be able to use the data to leverage public policy decisions and inspire collaborative action worldwide.

The Great Global Cleanup 

The initiative will be launched in cities across the United States on Earth Day this year. It will call on volunteers to help pick up pieces of trash from neighborhoods, beaches, rivers, lakes, trails and parks. Using the lessons learned in the U.S., a global effort on Earth Day next year will try to gather millions of volunteers to remove billions of pieces of trash.

The road is blocked by demonstrators during a climate protest at Marble Arch in London, Tuesday, April 16, 2019. VOA

One of the most ambitious project connected to the global cleanup is one aimed at cleaning the most polluted rivers in the world: the Ganges, in India. Coordinated by Earth Day India and a local NGO, the first phase will begin in the Himalayas, where two glacier-fed streams meet to form India’s most famous and sacred river.

The cleanup will evolve over the next 15 months through 100 towns and cities, including some of the most densely populated ones such as Kolkota, Varanasi and Patna. It will culminate in the Sunderbans Delta, where the river empties into the Bay of Bengal.

“The project on the Ganges will serve as a lightning rod for many more countries and communities to get involved worldwide,” Rogers said.

The Canopy Project

One of EDN’s ongoing projects since 2010 has been to plant trees to fight deforestation. EDN focuses on restoring forests in environmentally critical areas such the Amazon rainforest and the Boreal Forest. But it also plans on reforestation of areas degraded by natural disasters such as flooding or fires. The organization estimates it has planted hundreds of millions of trees worldwide since it started.

Rogers says EDN’s goal for the 50th anniversary is to plant 7.8 billion trees, one for every person alive on Earth that year. Although, she says, the latest population forecast is close to 7.6 billion in 2020 “so that’s a bit of a reprieve.”

 

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Earth Day Network, the organization that leads Earth Day observances worldwide, has designated 2019 to be the year to “Protect Our Species.” VOA

She explains that the 7.8 billion number is in addition to the reforestation pledges made by governments, corporations and other environmental groups. For example, she said, the government of Pakistan has already declared its intention to plant 1 billion trees. EDN is now in negotiations with Islamabad to plant 1 billion additional trees to meet the 2020 goal.

ALSO READ: London Climate Change Protesters to Call a Halt if Government will Consider their Demands

Since the first Earth Day in 1970, when 20 million Americans banded together to launch the modern environmental movement, governments around the world have passed laws and implemented policies to preserve the Earth.

EDN says as the 50th anniversary of Earth Day approaches, the time is long overdue for a global outpouring of energy, enthusiasm and commitment to create a new environmental paradigm. (VOA)

Next Story

EU Countries Consume Earth’s Resources Faster than they can be Renewed: Report

Some 100 Greenpeace activists and students from several European countries marched through Sibiu carrying a huge banner saying "Broken Climate Broken Future"

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France's President Emmanuel Macron, right, and President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker speak during the informal meeting of European Union leaders in Sibiu, Romania, May 9, 2019. VOA

The European Union’s 28 countries consume the Earth’s resources faster than they can be renewed and none of them has sustainable consumption policies, a report released Thursday said, as EU leaders met to discuss priorities for the next five years.

“All EU countries are living beyond the means of our planet. The EU and its citizens are currently using twice more than the EU ecosystems can renew,” the report by the World Wide Fund (WWF) and Global Footprint Network said. It was issued as leaders met in the Romanian city of Sibiu to set the course for the bloc after Britain’s planned departure from the EU.

Climate change key priority

French President Emmanuel Macron said before the summit that climate change was among his key priorities and it was included in the bloc’s 10 “commitments” for the future until 2024, agreed by all the 27 leaders meeting in Sibiu.

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The European Union’s 28 countries consume the Earth’s resources faster than they can be renewed and none of them has sustainable consumption policies. Pixabay

But the bloc is divided on how to achieve any ambitious climate goals and it remains far from clear how the Sibiu declaration would be implemented. Some 100 Greenpeace activists and students from several European countries marched through Sibiu carrying a huge banner saying “Broken Climate Broken Future.”

“We cannot talk about a prosperous future without a healthy climate,” Greenpeace climate activist Alin Tanase told Reuters. Views on concrete action to be taken to combat climate change differ between EU countries, influenced greatly by their dominant industries, such as carmakers in Germany or the coal industry in Poland.

Tusk sensitive to climate change

The chairman of the summit, President of the European Council Donald Tusk, said there was no future for politicians who were not sensitive to climate change and environment protection issues.

“The young generation is much more united on this than the member states. The truth is that nothing has changed when it comes to this divide and different opinions about this. What is new is this very fresh and energetic pressure,” he told a news conference after the summit.

climate change, earth's resources
Some 100 Greenpeace activists and students from several European countries marched through Sibiu carrying a huge banner saying “Broken Climate Broken Future.” VOA

Climate protection and sustainable development is also an important topic in the election campaign for the May 23-26 European Parliament elections, which will influence the leadership of European institutions and their programs.

The European Commission has been pushing for the EU to become climate neutral by 2050 through reducing carbon emissions that will otherwise boost the Earth’s average temperatures with devastating consequences.

“The EU uses up almost 20 percent of the Earth’s bio-capacity although it comprises only 7 percent of the world population,” the WWF report said. “In other words, 2.8 planets would be needed if everyone consumed at the rate of the average EU resident,” it said.

climate change, earth's resources
FILE – Climate change demonstrators hold banners in front of the Winston Churchill Statue during a protest near Parliament in London, April 12, 2019. VOA

ALSO READ: Billionaire Jeff Bezos Reveals Mockup of Lunar Lander, Embraces Trump’s Moon Timetable

Luxembourg smallest but fastest

It said the EU’s smallest and richest country, Luxembourg, was also the one which used up renewable resources the fastest last year. Just 46 days into the year, it had consumed its full share of the Earth’s resources, it said.

The EU’s poorest nation, Romania, took the longest to arrive at that point, on July 12th. But that was still earlier than the world’s average of Aug. 1, called Earth overshoot day. (VOA)