OPINION: Earth Day demands perpetual action
Like clockwork, every April, green banners are pasted to bulletin boards, lights are switched off and reusable water bottles are placed atop desks. Earth Day – intended to spur continual efforts to mitigate the impacts of climate change, has become performative.
Few deny it: our Earth is nearing the threshold of no return. We teeter on the precipice of preserving the natural world and prioritizing self-interest. Thus, we are faced with a humanitarian crisis every individual is forced to confront.
To begin addressing the crisis in full, the school community collaborates to push for the collective practice of sustainability during Earth Week. These efforts must be maintained to drive tangible change.
Earth Day began in the U.S. during April of 1970 and has since been celebrated annually to improve environmental awareness. Back in 1970, the U.S. codified a series of environmental acts on account of worsening environmental conditions. More recently, nations gathered for the COP27 conference attempting to establish a middle ground across geopolitical boundaries. Even so, the state of our climate is plummeting.
Within the century, there will be a predicted increase of three degrees Celcius in average global temperatures, according to the United Nations. The effects of this temperature rise have already seeped into many facets of our lives, from extreme weather to the extinction of species and air pollution.
Earth Week uniquely opens a door for a communal understanding of the nuance of environmental deterioration. However, discussions surrounding environmental intersectionality should also be reoccurring.
Earth Week uniquely opens a door for a communal understanding of the nuance of environmental deterioration.
Issues regarding the climate crisis are interlinked with race, income and health, to name a few. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, marginalized communities bear the brunt of climate change on account of the likelihood to be in close proximity to landfills and industrial plants. Environmental racism leads to an overlooking of increased mortality rates in low-income or marginalized communities.
Moreover, the bulk of refugees today flee their countries due to conflict, but by 2050, the majority will be displaced by climate change, according to the UN Refugee Agency. These particular impacts of climate change are felt by individuals across the globe, and yet, we simply dedicate a day to unpacking the surface of environmental issues while failing to address their intersection with social disparities.
The detriments of fast fashion, similarly, merit continual conversation beyond just one day a year. Cheap clothing companies – namely Shein, Zara and Forever 21 – rely on both child labor and toxic dyes to cheaply produce vibrant fabric, according to Good On You. The remains of these toxic materials are dumped into oceans and nearby waterways every day, polluting drinking water. While we relegate awareness of this issue to one day a year, the issue will persist the other 364.
Earth Week serves as a dedicated opportunity to explore intersectionality, but it should only serve as an introduction.
Earth Week serves as a dedicated opportunity to explore intersectionality, but it should only serve as an introduction. Ultimately, the responsibility of mitigating climate change impacts falls on every individual to place pressure on large companies and policymakers.
Aside from partaking in discussions regularly addressing the intersectionality of climate change, community members ought to pursue second-hand shopping opportunities, continue recycling efforts and limit red meat consumption. Donating to thrift stores, participating in park and beach clean-ups, disposing of electronics and utilizing green spaces in London are further methods of combatting climate change.
Partaking in these actions regularly – instead of simply one day per year – is imperative to making headway. We must shift our mindsets to view the climate crisis more holistically, transcending any one environmental issue, race issue or gender issue.