Earth Day: an opportunity to debate and take actions
When did Earth Day start? How come and why? Who had the idea? So many questions that we have been able to answer and summarise thanks to the official earth day website.
Earth Day on April 22th, you need a quick history reminder?
Origins of Earth day
Americans were overconsuming gas for decades when public awarness and concern for living organisms, the environment and the indivisible links between pollution and public health started to rise in the 60s. The massive oil spill in Santa Barbare, California in january 1969, was the triggering factor.
Some politicals decided to infuse the energy of student anti-war protests in the air and water pollution cause. April 22 was chosen in order to maximize student participation because it fell between Spring break and Final exams.
Earth Day inspired 20 million Americans, which was at the time 10% of the total population of the United States, to take to the streets, parks and auditoriums to demonstrate against the impacts of 150 years of industrial development which had left a growing legacy of serious human health impacts.
By the end of 1970, the first Earth Day led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of other first of their kind environmental laws.
Evolution of the Earth Day
30 years on, Earth Day 2000 leverages the power of digital media to build millions of local conversations across more than 180 countries.
2010 was more difficult. At that time, Earth Day had to fight against cynicism of climate change deniers, well-funded oil lobbyists, reticent politicians, a disinterested public, and a divided environmental community.
Seeing thoses challenges, here comes the Earth Day Network. Over the decades, it has brought hundreds of millions of people into the environmental movement, creating opportunities for civic engagement and volunteerism in 193 countries. Earth Day engages more than 1 billion people every year.
Earth Day 2020 marks 50 years with global activations that aim to mobilize a billion people worldwide for transformative action for our planet. In honor of this milestone, Earth Day Network is launching an ambitious set of goals, among which the Great Global Cleanup, Foodprints for the Future, and Artists for the Earth.
Has the environment improved since covid-19 lockdown?
Of course, the containment of one-third of the world’s population by covid-19 has worrying economic and health consequences related to the stress of uncertainty and many other factors.
But friends, let’s see the glass half full! Let’s take a look at the positive effects of containment on nature.
Impressive reductions in air pollution
Take northern Italy, for example, where nitrogen dioxide (NO2) concentrations have fallen drastically, according to the European service Copernicus. Satellite observations show “a trend towards a gradual reduction of about 10% per week over the last four to five weeks”. In Milan, average N02 concentrations fell from around 65 mg/m3 in January to 35 mg/m3 in the first half of March.
This drop can be linked to several factors, including the reduction in car traffic and industrial activities as a result of the coronavirus epidemic. But it could also be explained by a “change in temperature, because this year has been quite warm and there has been less heating”, another cause of nitrogen dioxide pollution, Simonetta Cheli, head of ESA’s Earth observation programmes, told AFP. A scientific study has therefore been launched to measure more precisely the causal link with the coronavirus factor alone.
On the other side of the globe, a researcher at Stanford University in California, Marshall Burke, estimates that improving air quality in China has saved the lives of 4 000 children and 73 000 elderly people. “I calculate that reducing air pollution in China has probably saved 20 times as many lives as have been lost due to the virus,” he says on the G-Feed website, a working group on society and the environment.
What about noise pollution ?
Bruitparif’s measuring devices record an average daily drop of between 5 and 7 decibels in the French capital. “Knowing that a drop of 5 db represents about 66% noise suppression and 7 db about 80%,” explains a specialist.
And this is a general observation, since it applies “to noise peaks produced by two-wheelers or emergency vehicle sirens, as well as to overall background noise”. Some residents of the capital can now enjoy the sounds of birds singing.
But it’s not just the traffic. With the restrictive measures, noise pollution has also decreased in the usually festive districts, with many bars and restaurants: “for example, in the rue des Lombards, we went from 70 to 55 db on the 10pm-2am schedule. A drop of 15 db means that there is no more noise”, deciphers the president of Bruitparif.
People living near the airports can enjoy the silence, since air traffic has decreased sharply during the first week of confinement, before almost coming to a standstill during the second week.
However, there is one pleasing exception: several Bruitparif observation stations are picking up sharp increases in noise around 8 pm, due to… the applause of the inhabitants for the caretakers and workers mobilized in the face of the coronavirus. A phenomenon that can be seen, for example, on the readings for the rue de la Ferronnerie (1st).
Is light pollution following the move ?
Light pollution has a significant impact on our health and the environment. Unfortunately, it has not decreased much, but we have seen a brightening of the sky since the beginning of the pandemic.
Tom Kerss, an astrophysics graduate and presenter of the weekly podcast Star Signs: Go Stargazing: “I do my best to remind people that these days, observing the stars and the Moon, and even looking for a comet, can be a source of comfort and connection with nature, even though we can feel closed off and isolated. After all, it is a spectacle we all share.
Animals are coming back to town
What are the symptoms of Covid-19? Ducks in the streets of Paris, wild boars in the streets of Barcelona, goats in the city of Wales… Since the beginning of the confinement, which concerns more than half of humanity, animals are regaining their rights in cities deserted by humans.
In Sardinia, the halt in maritime traffic has made it possible to observe dolphins venturing into the ports. In Paris, the drastic drop in noise pollution has made it possible to hear birds singing. And in the Calanques National Park, agents have been able to observe dolphins, shearwaters and herons for the past month at a frequency and density “never seen before”. At the beginning of April, two rorqual whales – the second largest animal in the world – were even seen near the coast.
It should be noted, however, that this movement remains short-term and that the animals will desert the cities once the confinement is over.
What initiatives on Earth Day 2020?
An inter-scolar debate organized by Ambientech
Ambientech, guest of our #coffeebreakathome en Instagram on April 13th, has created a free access platform for young people from all over the world to learn about the environment, health, energy and many other topics. On the occasion of Earth Day, Wednesday April 22, Ambientech is organizing a large inter-school online debate on emergency climate. This debate aims to promote cultural and educational exchanges and environmentally friendly experiences among all participants.
Interested? Feel free to visit their website to find out more.
A 24H live
Earth Day, the world’s largest civic event, is going digital for the first time in its history. Via a live that you can watch on earthday.org on April 22, the organizers will demand that leaders take science seriously, listen to their people and push for action at every level of society to stop the rising tide of climate change.
Through the sports trips we offer, we support our partners’ projects on site. For example, our partner Agua de Coco leads sustainable development projects linked to the education of young people. In Madagascar, a day of mangrove reforestation was organized. Young people planted 3000 endemic mangrove shoots in the mangrove reserve of the ngo Bel Avenir in Tsigonritelo, Toliara, in the south of Madagascar. The mangrove ecosystem is essential in the fight against climate change, as it is the ecosystem that sequesters the most carbon.