Sunday, April 22, 2012

Earth Day 2012: Do we care enough?

I laugh at myself for getting excited about these Day events. Do Earth Hour, Earth Day and the like really make a difference, and do we really care?
Maybe not in general, but I like to think that I am doing my small part and stamping a tiny footprint somewhere on this planet.
Being single, without children and a very minimal consumer, I guess it’s easier for me to support and implement a lot of environmental-friendly messages. I can imagine the difficulties for families, but it is with children that the message should start and be taken into the future.
Forty-two years ago, at the height of hippie and flower child culture in the United States and around the world, 1970 brought the death of Jimi Hendrix, the last Beatles album, and Simon & Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water. Protest was the order of the day, but saving the planet was not the cause. War raged in Vietnam, which students in the U.S. were increasingly opposing while we in the region were trying to make sense of the 1967 Six-Day War.
The first Earth Day, on April 22, 1970, activated 20 million Americans from all walks of life to speak out against the deterioration of the environment and demand change. As a result, the Environmental Protection Agency was created, the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts were passed, and the modern environmental movement was born.
Today, more than one billion people in 192 countries participate in Earth Day activities each year, making it the largest civic observance in the world. Yet there is still extensive global inaction on pressing environmental problems.
Earth Day Network calls upon individuals, organizations, businesses and governments to Mobilize the Earth and demand that environmental issues become a top priority.  
Earth Day 1970 capitalized on the emerging consciousness, channeling the energy of the anti-war protest movement and putting environmental concerns front and center.
The idea came to Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson, then a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, after witnessing the ravages of the 1969 massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California. Inspired by the student anti-war movement, Nelson realized that if he could infuse that energy with an emerging public consciousness about air and water pollution, it would force environmental protection onto the national political agenda.
Earth Day 1990 gave a huge boost to recycling efforts worldwide and helped pave the way for the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. Earth Day 2012 will act as a launch pad for growing the environmental movement and will put forth a bold declaration demanding immediate action to secure Renewable Energy for All and a sustainable future for our planet.
The movement will involve individuals of every age from all corners of the Earth, and will call upon local, national and international leaders to put an end to fossil fuel subsidies, embrace renewable energy technology, improve energy efficiency and make energy universally accessible.

Individuals, organizations, businesses and governments can voice their support for the A Billion Acts of Green® campaign by performing environmental actions and lending their names to this global referendum demanding change.  The goal is to reach one billion actions by the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in June 2012, to serve as a lever to address the UN’s inaction and inspire leaders to reach a global agreement at the conference.
It is always my belief that educating the youth about environmental sustainability can capture the attention of students, teachers, parents, the community, and beyond. Earth Day 2012’s education mission is simple: encourage as many students as possible to participate in Earth Day activities that teach the importance of civic and environmental responsibility.
Maybe Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax is a good starting point -- “I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues…Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” The book and then the movie chronicle the plight of the environment and the Lorax, who speaks for the trees against the greedy Once-ler.
To help children get involved in the environmental movement, Earth Day Network has devised programs to incorporate environmental education into the classroom with a collection of more than 300 environmentally themed lesson plans at
Sample lesson plans for grades K-3 to grades 9-12 show students:
  •  the bigger meaning of recycling by focusing on what is created from the process  -- The Bigger Meaning of Recycling: Green Play Structures.
  • the scope of the worldwide plastic bag problem, and provide them with ways to reduce plastic bag generation and waste --The Truth about Plastic Bags.
  • examine the history of animal-based transportation and discover why many cultures increasingly rely on machines for transportation and contrast modern methods of transportation with those of the past to examine the pros and cons how transportation has developed in the modern world -- Before We Drove Cars We Rode Animals.
  • research and “get to know” the six major air pollutants -- The Six Infamous Pollutants.
  • audit their personal daily water usage and conservation. Through an introduction to the Kenyan village of Kapsasian, group mathematical problem solving, and class discussions, they will have a better understanding of the problems faced by those with lack of access to water -- Carrying Water.
  • introduce students to the concepts of water pollution and access to clean water through class discussion and a water filtration experiment -- Filtering Water.
  • gain background knowledge of the basic sources of air pollution, along with the overview of how air pollution affects our health and our environment -- Air Pollution 101.
There are many more that adults could possibly benefit from too.
On this Earth Day, maybe we can channel some of our efforts into building a clean, healthy, diverse world for children and future generations. But do we care enough?