In a perfect world Earth Day would not need to exist. But with all the environmental anxieties still so apparent in the 21st century, it’s an inevitable fact that each Earth Day will become more important to observe than the last, and this year has been no exception.
With each year, the effects of climate change worsen and the time we have left to correct them shortens, so it seems fitting that the theme given to Earth Day 2021 would be ‘Restore Our Earth.’ It is no longer simply about improving our carbon footprint and our relationship with the climate, it’s about restoring the damage already done to our planet, and to our ecosystems.
And although the environmental concerns remain, and the steps required to meet them seem daunting, Earth Day has always had a rich history of facing these challenges honestly, and remains a vital focal point for motivating change, both to environmental organisations such as our own in Gone West, but also to every individual who wishes to become involved in the movement and improve their effect on the environment around them.
Before you dive in, why not check out our woodland creation service? We excel at Creating Forests. We believe that forests are the lungs of the earth. Without them, we'd be nowhere.
History of Earth Month
This year marked the 51st anniversary of Earth Day, and has marked another year of triumph and support for our planet.
Born from the cultural shifts towards ecology in the late 1960’s, and motivated by international touchstones such as the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill, Rachel Carson’s book; Silent Spring, and images caught such as the 1968 Earthrise NASA photograph, all of which brought the issues of the climate to the forefront of people's minds.
Earth Day was envisioned by organizers John McConnell and Denis Haynes to celebrate the nature of the planet, but also inspire the environmental initiative necessary to protect it’s fragile ecosystems.
The first Earth Day, taking place on April 22 1970, saw 20 million people pour out into the streets to demonstrate their support of pro-climate action, and still remains the largest single day of peaceful protest in human history.
After the initial demonstration, the organization quickly became the world’s most widely observed secular holiday, with as many as 1 billion people in more than 193 countries becoming involved in the annual demonstrations.
In addition to its dedication to increasing public awareness about the importance of ecology, Earth Day has also been an instrumental cornerstone in the annual political and legislative action taken towards improving humans' effect on the climate. The various protests and initiatives have contributed towards the signing of the Clean Water Act (1972), Endangered Species Act (1976), National Environmental Education Act (1990), Clean Air Act (1993), and much more.
Following suite there have since been huge developments in legislative bills passed, the biggest of which was the landmark Paris Agreement signed on Earth Day 2016, where leaders from 175 countries signed the historic international pact, which aims to limit global warming to “well below” 2C above pre-industrial levels, and to strive to keep temperatures at 1.5C by the end of the century.
On Earth day 2020, over 100 million people around the world observed its 50th anniversary, in what has been referred to as the largest online mass mobilization in history.
Earth Month 2021
This year, Earth day looked quite different than it has done in previous years. While in the past Earth day has been associated with public demonstrations, speeches and marches, all of which would take place on the streets and in prominent public spaces, the continuing lockdowns and social distancing policies have forced all of this year’s discourses and demonstrations to move online.
Hosted on earthday.org, the centerpiece of the day’s conversations took the form of a 7-hour broadcast discussing various issues, and included speakers as varied as Denis Hayes, Organizer of the First Earth Day, to Pope Francis.
Outside of the Earth day organization, probably the most significant event to occur on Earth Day 2021 was when US president Joe Biden invited 40 world leaders to take part in a virtual summit on the 22nd and 23rd April to highlight the urgency for stronger climate action.
To underpin the many facets of climate action, the earth day organization defined FIVE PILLARS OF RESTORE OUR EARTH, which included the following:
- Climate literacy: a Combined effort of civic education to promote climate and environmental literacy to create jobs and build greener consumer markets.
- The Global Earth Challenge: a citizen science initiative collecting data on topics as varied as bee populations, research on air quality, and food security.
- The Great Global Clean up: an initiative to encourage the cleaning of litter on a local level.
- Food and Environments: having a more positive relationship between our diet and the ‘foodprints’ established by the production of said diets.
- Canopy Project: The fifth pillar came in the form of focusing on the importance of reforestation across the world, which has already planted tens of millions of trees worldwide. (Similar to what we do here at Gone West)
Reforestation and Climate Change
Since the onset of agriculture around 12,000 years ago, the number of trees worldwide has dropped by 46%. Today, approximately 15 billion trees are cut down each year, that’s 10bn more being cut down than being planted.
In 2017 the changes in land uses, predominantly deforestation, contributed towards four billion tonnes of CO2 emission in the global total of 41 billion tonnes of CO2: that’s about 10%.
As trees grow they pull in CO2 through their leaves and convert it into carbohydrates, which they use to grow. So long as a tree lives, that carbon stays within it – and trees can live for decades, even centuries.
It therefore follows that the process of reforestation plays one of the most significant roles in the fight against climate change. Trees are primary sources of what are called ‘carbon sinks’, they act as natural traps of carbon, and in the process they reduce excess carbon in the atmosphere, reducing worldwide temperatures.
Not considering the other positive effects on biodiversity, reforestation also plays an important role in the form of social and economic benefits that are provided to local communities, providing green spaces and varied and meaningful jobs.
It goes without saying that Gone West takes the positive effects of reforestation to heart, and like The Canopy Project, we aim to continue the replanting of trees throughout the year, and the month of April was no exception, with planting days continuing throughout, and in varied locations.
Here are some to check out below…
One of our more recent projects is the Free Trees for Portugal project, which Gone West has already helped by supporting 30+ projects across the country, planting 20,000 trees, all with the hope of both protecting the land, and the people living on it. The reforestation projects in Portugal not only go towards protecting wildlife and resisting future forest fires, they also aim to bring communities together, by creating outdoor education, and increasing network-building, giving a gift back to the land and creating a wild future for everyone to enjoy.
To support this project, and in honour of the efforts of Earth Month, Gone West also put together some campaigns on Instagram, where for every like, tag and follow on our posts we promised to plant a tree, which collectively resulted in 350 trees!
If you missed out on our Earth day post and you're interested in helping the environment, we offer a monthly subscription plan in which we plant at least 2 trees a month for only £10 in your name. Be sure to check it out.
Keep the spirit of Earth Month all year round!
This year’s Earth day was important as always, but next year’s will inevitably be even more important, and so will the next, and the next, and the next…
The pattern will remain this way until one of two things happen, either the changes in our lifestyles finally take control of the climate, or the changes in our climates take control of our lifestyles.
Whether it be in reducing the general waste each of us produces in a single day, converting to a more sustainable diet, dedicating to more efficient travel, or supporting green spaces through the commitment to reforestation, there are always ways to be more conscious of one's carbon footprint. Including a service in which you can offset your traveling impacts by planting trees to combat personal carbon footprints, which we offer here.
And while it is true that the first step in dealing with any problem is admitting that there is one, Earth Day is not just about taking that first step, it’s about all the steps that must come after. We hope that you will walk alongside us in keeping the spirit of Earth Month alive, not just for one day, or one week, but all year round!