Earth Day 2020: Fifty Years On, World Comes Together Virtually to Put Spotlight on Climate Action

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Every year, April 22 is celebrated as the global Earth Day. The year 2020 marks 50 years since the start of this modern environmental movement in 1970. With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic—as most parts of the world remain under lockdown, the Earth Day has gone digital to keep up the momentum. The theme for this year is Climate Action.

“The impact of the coronavirus is both immediate and dreadful. But there is another, deep emergency—the planet’s unfolding environmental crisis. Climate disruption is approaching a point of no return. We must act decisively to protect our planet from both the coronavirus and the existential threat of climate disruption. The current crisis is an unprecedented wake-up call. We need to turn the recovery into a real opportunity to do things right for the future,” said António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, in his message for the day.

On Wednesday, the 50th anniversary of Earth Day will be celebrated by different types of digital events—global conferences, calls to action, performances, and video teach-ins to name a few. Moreover, many online activities will be focused on different environmental issues across the globe.

How Earth Day started

The idea to initiate Earth Day came from the US Senator Gaylord Nelson from Wisconsin in 1969. Driven by a deep concern over the deteriorating environmental conditions due to oil spills and rising air pollution in the 1960s, he initiated environmental movements to educate people about its ill effects on both human and environmental health.

The first Earth Day was organised on April 22, 1970. About 20 million people—nearly 10% of the US population—are said to have participated in this pioneering environmental movement to spread the message of protecting natural biodiversity and put forth their concern over environmental deterioration.

In 1970, the participants took to the streets, college campuses, parks from different cities to protest against environmental ignorance and demanded better conservation measures for the only habitable planet in the solar system. The movement was a significant victory and led to the launch of several landmark environmental programmes and laws, including Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts, and created the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the US.

The first Earth Day inspired several such environmental movements across the globe. Several countries eventually adopted laws to safeguard the environment. Moreover, on this day in 2016, the United Nations opened the Paris Agreement on climate change for signing. After 50 years of this journey, Earth Day continues to hold major international significance, and is celebrated with full enthusiasm to inspire protection of the natural wealth.

2020 theme: Climate Action

The theme set for this year’s Earth Day is Climate Action. As glaciers continue to melt, droughts and floods increase, species go extinct, heat waves get intense, and weather patterns change, the call for climate action has grown louder than ever.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), has warned of severe impacts if the warming crosses 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. The change is majorly attributed to the increase in carbon emission over the past few decades due to human activities.

In this context, the main objective of the day will be to educate the masses—about greenhouse gases, an increase in carbon emissions and individual carbon footprints. The day will bring together experts and influencers from diverse fields to engage in a dialogue and spread the message of climate action.

From simple lifestyle changes to driving local or national climate policy, every one of us has the potential to contribute to mitigating climate change. As the world has come to a screeching halt, this Earth Day reminds us that the time is ripe to rethink about the future of planet Earth.

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