‘Act boldly, innovate broadly, implement equitably’
Dr Parveen Kumar
International days are occasions to educate general public on issues of concern, to mobilize political will and resources to address global problems and to celebrate and reinforce achievements of humanity. The existence of International Days predates the establishment of United Nations, but the UN has embraced them as a powerful advocacy tool.
Every year certain days, weeks or months and even entire years are designated for a specific cause. United Nations promotes international awareness and actions on these specific causes. April 22, celebrated every year as ‘Earth Day’ globally is one such day dedicated to the planet on which all of us live, the only place in the known universe confirmed to host life. Unfortunately, human beings have irrevocably upset the balance of nature and, as a result, the world is facing the greatest rate of extinction since we lost the dinosaurs more than 60 million years ago. Unlike the fate of the dinosaurs, the rapid extinction of species in our world today is the result of human activity. The unprecedented global destruction and rapid reduction of plant and wildlife populations are directly linked to causes driven by human activity viz. climate change, deforestation, habitat loss, trafficking and poaching, unsustainable agriculture, pollution and pesticides to name a few. The impacts are far-reaching.
An important component of our planet is our land which we put to different uses. The land represent a natural ecosystem composed of many elements those exhibit diverse bio physical characteristics that are interlinked and interdependent. It also supports a number of economic activities and influences health and nutrition of man and animals. Due to poor soil and water management practices about 40 to 50 per cent of the land area suffers from degradation of one or the other kind. The indiscriminate use of plant protection chemicals during green revolution and thereafter in states like Punjab, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh to increase the crop yields has led to water pollution. Such is the extent that drinking such polluted water has resulted in many deadly diseases among peoples in the states like Punjab and Haryana. A train runs especially from the Bathinda to Ganga Nagar in Rajasthan for their treatment. This train is given the name of ‘Cancer Train’. Temperature is on the rise. Sea levels are increasing. Floods and droughts are on the rise. Coastal areas are now unsafe for human settlements. Crop failures accompanied with decrease in productivity of crops as well as livestock is adding to the food insecurity of the region. If we do not act now, extinction may be humanity’s most enduring legacy.
Earth Day is an annual event celebrated globally to support environmental protection. The day is celebrated on 22nd April every year. Originated in 1970, the event is now coordinated and celebrated internationally by the Earth Day Network in more than 193 countries across the globe. Earth Day was celebrated in April 1970 for the first time to bring the environmental condition into the national agenda. On the first Earth Day, 20 million Americans took part in different U.S. cities. The first Earth Day was held on April 22, 1970, when San Francisco activist John McConnell and Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson separately asked Americans to join in a grassroots demonstration. Dealing with dangerously serious issues concerning toxic drinking water, air pollution, and the effects of pesticides, an impressive 20 million Americans 10% of the population ventured outdoors and protested together. President of the United States of America Richard Nixon led the nation in creating the Environmental Protection Agency, which followed with successful laws including the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act. Environmental Activist McConnell originally had chosen the spring equinox (March 20, 1970), but Nelson chose April 22, which ended up becoming the official celebration date. (Given that the date of the spring equinox changes over time, it may have made things more complicated to go with the astronomical event rather than just a calendar date.)
The themes of the international days are always linked to main fields of action of the United Nations, namely the maintenance of international peace and security, the promotion of sustainable development, the protection of human rights and the guarantee of international law and humanitarian action. This year the theme of Earth Day is continuation of previous year’s theme i.e ‘Invest in Planet’. It does not means financial investment, but investment in promoting and propagating climate smart technologies, conserving biodiversity and protecting the rights of tribal and indigenous communities that do a lot in preventing the loss of biodiversity and at the same time motivating and adopting the judicious use of our natural resources. The theme this year has been decided keeping in view the deteriorating condition of our planet and the immediate action needed on our part to restore the health of this planet. This year theme of the Earth Day ‘Invest in Planet’ also focuses on natural processes, emerging green technologies and innovative thinking that can restore the world’s ecosystems. The day also demands a commitment from all of us towards climate and environmental literacy, climate restoration technologies, reforestation efforts, regenerative agriculture, equity and environmental justice and sustainable development based on efficient use of natural resources. Already we have robbed our planet earth of its valuable biodiversity, depleted its natural resources by their overuse ad misuse.
Global warming, pollution and deforestation are some of the problems routinely discussed since they pose a major threat to nature. Over 1 billion people spread across 192 countries participate in Earth Day activities each year. This makes the day as the largest civic observance in the world. Earth Day is recognised as the largest civic event in the world. Earth Day educates us about what we have and what we are losing by acting in ways that aren’t environmentally friendly or energy efficient. It reminds us that we need to take action now to protect our environment and various issues like climate change, global warming and many others before it is too late. Today, not only is Earth Day a day meant to increase awareness of environmental problems, but also it is also becoming a popular time for many communities to gather together to clean up litter, plant trees, or simply reflect on the beauty of nature. This day also helps in analyzing the condition of the planet and to discuss a unified response to save the climate. It is a reminder that clean air, flourishing forests, and water are crucial for life on Earth. Saving our earth and its environment becomes highly important as it provide us food and water to sustain life. Our well-being solely depends on this planet it gives food and water to all living things to it is our responsibility to take care of it. Earth Day allows us a day each year to reflect and remember the significance of the health of the planet and what we can all do to help ensure that health of all of us. According to Kathleen Rogers, President of Earthday.Org, ‘by engaging governments, businesses, institutions, and the more than 1 billion people who participate in Earth Day annually we can solve the world’s greatest problem: climate change.’ There is unlimited opportunity to right the wrongs of past actions and build a new version of society. Once again, we must act boldly in order to achieve a successful outcome. We should innovate in a broader sense and have to put our ideas into practice in an equitable manner.