History of Earth Day
On April 22, 1970, 20 million Americans took to the streets, parks, and auditoriums to demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable envi- ronment in massive coast-to-coast rallies. Thousands of colleges and universities organized protests against the deterioration of the environment. Groups that had been fighting against oil spills, polluting factories and power plants, raw sewage, toxic dumps, pesticides, freeways, the loss of wilderness, and the extinction of wildlife suddenly realized they shared common values. Earth Day 1970 achieved a rare political alignment, enlisting sup- port from Republicans and Democrats, rich and poor, city slickers and farmers, tycoons and labor leaders. By the end of that year, the first Earth Day had led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts.
Protect our Species
Today is the 49th Earth Day with the theme “Protect Our Species.” Nature’s gifts to our planet are the millions of species that we know and love, and many more that remain to be discovered. Unfortunately, the world is facing the greatest rate of extinction since we lost the dinosaurs more than 60 million years ago. But unlike the fate of the dinosaurs, the rapid extinction of species in our world today is the result of human activity. All living things have the right to exist, and they have an intrinsic value independent of their value to us. Every species serves a purpose and plays a role in the web of life and in the key ecosystem it services.
Why We Must Protect our Species
There are countless reasons why it is important to protect the huge variety of species on our planet. They have enormous value to humans, the other plants and animals in their ecosystems.
Human beings are a part of the global ecosystem as well. We have interacted with other plants and animals since we evolved as a species and we have come to rely on the many services provided to us by nature for our very survival. The great forests that wrap the equator of the world are its lungs. They absorb carbon dioxide and produce the oxygen we all rely on to breathe. Wetland areas filter toxins out of the water, preventing the oceans from being polluted by our activities. The countless variations of species evolution have provided us with inspiration for countless medical breakthroughs. The total economic value of all of these services has been estimated to be worth $44 trillion. We need to protect the immense diversity of our planet so that it can continue to provide these essential services that we depend on to survive.
What We Can Do to Protect our Species
Species protection is one of the oldest and most visible aspects of the broader environmental movement. Despite many notable success stories and instances where critically endangered species were pulled back from the brink of eradication, the phenomenon of the sixth extinction persists. Species continue to go extinct at an alarming rate, even with efforts by many governments and organizations to protect them.
It is clear that we cannot protect any one species in an ecosystem without protecting the ecosystem itself. That is the key message behind the "Protect our Species" campaign. We cannot just protect the species we like or that we can visit during a trip to a national park. We cannot just protect the species that provide us with services. We must protect all species, because in the end, that is the one and only way to prevent more extinctions.
REDUCE OUR OVERALL CONSUMPTION:
We can consume less and be more mindful about what we consume. We need to leverage our purchasing power to help protect biodiversity by consuming products that do not harm the environment.
We can choose products with ecolabels, which enable consumers to find products endorsed as green, safe, and environmentally sustainable. Buying certified products helps protect nature.
We can demand that supermarkets and other food providers purchase environmentally certi- fied products.
We can buy food from local farmers that we know, who have sustainable practices towards wildlife.
We can buy organic and natural products when possible to support an industry that does not use pesticides and other chemicals known to harm wildlife.
REDUCE YOUR USE OF ENERGY AND CONTRIBUTION TO CLIMATE CHANGE:
There are a number of things you can do to directly reduce your carbon footprint, at home, at work, and when traveling.
Replace inefficient incandescent light bulbs with efficient CFLs or LEDs. Turn off the lights when you leave a room. Install solar panels on your home. Use public transportation.
Keep your tires properly inflated and get better gas mileage. Your car will save gas and emit less carbon.
Walk or ride a bike when possible.
Lower your heater thermostat by two degrees in winter and increase it by two degrees in the summer.
Purchase energy-efficient appliances and electronics.
Hang your clothes on a line instead of using a dryer.
Lower the temperature on your water heater.
Contact your utility company and find out about renewable energy options.
Turn off and unplug electronics you’re not using. This includes turning off your computer or cell phone at night.
Take the stairs instead of the elevator to save energy (and get exercise!). Reduce your meat consumption to curb carbon emissions from the livestock industry.
Teleconference instead of traveling. If you fly five times per year or more, those trips are likely to account for 75% of your personal carbon footprint.
Consume less plastic products (made from fossil fuels) to reduce your carbon footprint and waste.
REDUCE YOUR WATER CONSUMPTION:
Turn off the tap when you brush your teeth: which can save several liters of water each time.
Take a shorter shower and save between 6 and 45 liters per minute.
Turn off the faucet while you are soaping up in the shower.
Use a water saving shower head. It will not affect the perceived flow of water and you will save quite a bit on your water bill.
Run your washing machine and dishwasher only with a full load of clothes or dishes.
Fix any dripping tap and have your faucets and toilets checked at least once a year.
Install a rainwater catcher to your drainpipe and use the rain to water your plants, clean your car and wash your windows. Specialty rainwater catchers can be found online and can collect around 5,000 liters a year. Check local laws related to collecting rainwater and make sure to comply.
Water your garden with a watering can instead of the hose. Mulching your plants (with bark chippings, heavy compost or straw) and watering in the early morning and late afternoon will reduce evaporation and also save water.
Use drought-resistant plants in dry areas.
DO NOT CONSUME WILDLIFE PRODUCTS, ESPECIALLY THOSE THAT ARE ILLEGAL:
Many products made of wild animals or plants are sold legally around the world. You might want to think carefully before buying such products. Is there an strong personal reason to buy animal parts? Can you buy something instead that does not contain wildlife parts and still fulfills your need?
There is also a huge demand worldwide for illegal products made from wild animals and plants, many of them endangered. This demand finances a very large illegal and ruthless industry, which devastates species populations around the world. The illegal traffic of plants and animals does not focus only on iconic species such as elephants, rhinos, or tigers. It includes thousands of species small and large. Many are killed and butchered on site. Other animals are sometimeskilled in the process of capturing one or more live specimens. Please think twice before buying a wild animal as a pet.
Always ask questions before making a purchase of a product that could have been made from wildlife. Ask: what is this product made of? Where did it come from? Is it legal to sell this product here? Does this country permit the sale and export of this product? Do I need a permit to transport this product?
Many countries are signatories of an international agreement called CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). This treaty, signed by 183 parties, was created to protect endangered species and fight against their illegal trafficking. Likewise, many countries have passed legislation that limits the trade of wildlife and products made from their parts. Please support campaigns to have your country join CITES (if it has not yet) and also legislation to protect wildlife in your country and abroad.
Use environmentally-friendly, non-toxic cleaning products. Many can be made at home. For example white vinegar mixed with water makes for a great all-purpose cleaning product for non wood surfaces.
Reduce or eliminate the use of all pesticides.
Do not use chemical fertilizers.
Properly dispose of all chemical products, such paints, solvants, etc.
Do not flush your medicines down the toilet. Chemicals in medicines have been found in many waterways and can affect wildlife. Find out if there are dop-off locations for unused medicine in your area.
Do not use sunscreen lotions that contains oxybenzone and octinoxate, chemicals believed to cause harm to marine life and coral reefs.
PREVENT PLASTIC POLLUTION:
Reduce your consumption if single-use plastics, or eliminate them entirely.
Recycle everything you can.