Every day should be Earth Day because we live on Earth! But how much we take for granted this wonderful, life-sustaining planet can be seen from the fact that we have devoted just one day of the year, April 22, as Earth Day. As if we live somewhere else the rest of the year.
We need to better understand our responsibilities toward Mother Earth and also what are the efforts being made, especially under the umbrella of Earth Day, to take better care of our home planet.
It was almost 50 years ago that this modern environmental movement started, in 1970. According to the details on Earth Day’s official website, Gaylord Nelson was the founder of Earth Day. A US Senator, Nelson was deeply disturbed by the damage caused by a massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California, in 1969. He worked to “force environmental protection onto the national political agenda” by tapping in on the “emerging public consciousness about air and water pollution.”
So on April 22, 1970, millions of Americans took to the streets and auditoriums to “demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable environment in massive coast-to-coast rallies.” By the end of that year, the first Earth Day had led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts.
It was in 1990 that Earth Day went truly global, mobilising 200 million people in 141 countries and lifting environmental issues onto the world stage. It also paved the way for the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.
Since then, many organisations and legislations have focused on the dangers faced by our planet and the efforts to prevent further damage.
According to the organisers, “Earth Day Network works year round to solve climate change, to end plastic pollution, to protect endangered species, and to broaden, educate and activate the environmental movement across the globe.”
Each year the event carries a theme, their main point of focus, and this year it is “Protect our species”. So many animal and plant species had either disappeared or are in acute danger of disappearing altogether in the near future. We are the culprits behind this loss. Our activities have led to climate change, deforestation, habitat loss, trafficking and poaching, unsustainable agriculture, pollution and pesticides, to name a few.
All living things have their own unique role in ecosystem, if we remove one, we disturb the whole system. Imagine it as all living things joined together in a web of life, if one string of the web breaks, it rocks and weakens the whole web. Particularly in the last one century, many species of animals and plants have disappeared, steps are taking place to preserve those who are endangered and make efforts to prevent loss of further valuable life forms.
There have been a few victories in the form of policies and conservation efforts that have seen a halt, and even reversal in some cases, in the number and speed of loss of endangered species and their habitats.
Here are some facts about the decline in global species as presented by www.earthday.com
Fact 1: We are amidst the largest period of species extinction in the last 60 million years. Scientists estimate that we are now losing species at 1,000 to 10,000 times the normal rate (which is one to five species). Multiple species will disappear before we learn about them or the benefits they bring to our planet.
Fact 2: A new study has suggested that insect populations have decreased by more than 75 percent in Germany over the last 28 years. This is very alarming: 80 percent of wild plants rely on bees and other insects for pollination, and 60 percent of bird species rely on insects for food.
Fact 3: Habitat destruction, exploitation, and climate change are driving the loss of half of the world’s wild animal population.
Fact 4: Primates, our closest animal relatives, are under extraordinary threat. Close to 60 percent of the world’s 504 primate species are threatened with extinction, and 75 percent of our primate species are in severe population decline.
Fact 6: In the past 20 years, around 75 percent of all toothed whale species, such as dolphins, porpoises, and 65 percent of baleen whale species (humpback, blue), and 65 percent of pinniped species (sea lions) have been affected through by-catch in fishing operations globally.
Fact 7: Forty percent of the world’s bird species are in decline, and one in eight is threatened with global extinction.
Fact 8: Our big cats, including tigers, leopards, and cheetahs are in critical decline, and many will become extinct in the next decade. The world’s cats are exploited for their body parts and skins.
Fact 9: Lizard populations are especially vulnerable to climate change. A recent study projects that if the current decline in lizard populations continues, 40 percent of all lizard species will be extinct by 2080.
Fact 10: The American Bison, once numbered in the millions and roamed from Alaska to Mexico, now occupy less than one percent of their original habitat.
Published in Dawn, Young World, April 20th, 2019