Celebrate Earth Day April 22
Earth Day 2019 theme is "Protect Our Species"
On April 22, 1970, 20 million people took to streets, parks, and auditoriums all across America to demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable environment in massive coast-to-coast rallies. It was the first ever Earth Day.
Now, nearly a half century later, Earth Day is the largest secular observance in the world, with more than a billion people taking part in activities and celebrations every year.
Earth Day 2019’s theme is “Protect Our Species” and is dedicated to helping educate and raise awareness about the accelerating rate of extinction of millions of species and the causes and consequences of this phenomenon.
All living things have an intrinsic value, and each plays a unique role in the complex web of life. The earth is facing a rate of extinction now that hasn’t been seen for more than 60 million years—the end of the dinosaurs.
Unlike that era’s extinction events, however; today’s crisis is the result of human activity—resulting in a vast number of plant and animal species becoming extinct in recent centuries—especially since the Industrial Revolution.1 (Did you know that it is estimated that humans have impacted 83 percent of Earth’s land surface, which has affected many ecosystems as well as the range in which specific species of wildlife used to exist….and that’s only the land.2) What’s more, the number of individuals across species of plants and animals3 has declined as well – in many cases severely – affecting genetic variation, biodiversity, among other issues.
As reported by The World Conservation Union (IUCN), there have been 849 previously identified species that have disappeared in the wild since 1500 A.D (this is likely a substantial underestimation of species that have actually gone extinct, as untold numbers could have disappeared before scientists had discovered they existed)4—and close to 33% and 20% of amphibians and mammals are in danger of becoming extinct in the decades to come.5
As the Earth Day Network points out, species extinction coupled with the devastation of genetically unique populations and the loss of their genetic variation leads to an irreversible biodiversity loss.6 All of which points to the unfolding of a global event with permanent, irreversible consequences.7
The organization has compiled some statistics that present this stark reality8:
- The number of animals living on the land has fallen by 40% since 1970.
- Marine animal populations have also fallen by 40% overall.
- Overall, 40 percent of the world’s 11,000 bird species are in decline.
- Animal populations in freshwater ecosystems have plummeted by 75% since 1970.
- Insect populations have declined by 75% in some places of the world.
- About a quarter of the world’s coral reefs have already been damaged beyond repair, and 75% of the world’s coral reefs are at risk from local and global stresses.
- It is estimated that humans have impacted 83% of Earth’s land surface, which has affected many ecosystems as well as the range in which specific species of wildlife used to exist.
“The good news,” says Kathleen Rogers, President of Earth Day Network, https://www.earthday.org/campaigns/endangered-species/earthday2019/ “is that the rate of extinctions can still be slowed, and many of our declining, threatened, and endangered species can still recover if we work together now to build a united global movement of consumers, voters, educators, faith leaders, and scientists to demand immediate action.”
How can you help? Here are a few ways:
Take the pesticide pledge!
Pollinators are one of the most critical species in the world—they help keep us (and other animals) fed! Without pollinators, we would run out of food quickly. By stopping your use of pesticides, you can help protect our bees (and other pollinating insects).
Hug (and plant) a tree.
Deforestation contributes to species extinction, poverty, and global greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change. Planting a tree (or many trees!) is an easy way to reduce carbon dioxide, a principal greenhouse gas. Plus, trees provide wildlife habitats, shade buildings and help conserve energy, can prevent erosion, and keep streams and rivers clean. That’s a lot of species benefit!
Develop G-R-R-R-R-Reat Habits
Plastic is the most prevalent type of pollution in our oceans and in the Great Lakes—and it takes a toll on the denizens of our seas and waterways. And while some of the plastics floating about are large, much of it is extremely tiny.
Microplastics—the name for these tiny bits of debris—are small plastic pieces less than five millimeters long and can be harmful to aquatic life—and may even make its way up the food chain (through a process called bioaccumulation) into other organisms, including humans.
Microplastics come from a variety of sources, including the gradual degradation of larger plastic chunks, or from plastic-based fabrics such as polyester and nylon that shed plastic fibers when washed.
The good thing about all of this is there is a lot we can do in our everyday lives to cut down on the amount of microplastics in our waters. Practicing the 5R’s: Reduce, Refuse, Reuse, Recycle, and Remove is a great way to help cut down on the Plastic Pollution Problem.
• Reduce the amount of plastics you use—for example, at the grocery store, if you are faced with choosing between two similar products, select the one with minimal (or no) plastic packaging. Grab individual bell peppers, for example, instead of the three peppers packaged together in a bag and on a tray. Transport your produce in a reusable mesh bag, instead of using one of the plastic bags from the dispenser.
• Refuse plastics you don’t need. Think about the plastic you see in trash—much of it is frequently discarded, short-lifecycle items that are those given to us for free. Think of plastic straws at a restaurant or plastic bags at the grocery store. Next time you sit down for dinner at your favorite eatery, tell the waitperson “hold the straw” before they bring out your water or soda. Buying a pack of socks or a sweater at a department store? Tell them “no, thanks” when they put that single item in a plastic bag.
• Reuse and repurpose common household items. Use mesh or canvas bags at the grocery store. Buy a refillable water bottle instead of buying bulk cases of bottled water. Hold a clothing swap—it can be a fun, free way for friends, relatives, co-workers, neighbors, and the like to find new wardrobe finds. If you’re crafty, find a way to re-use or upcycle your items into something new altogether. Try making a flower planter out of an old tire.
• Recycle the plastic you DO use when you are done with it. Make sure you are following the rules of the community, town, or city in which you live and only recycle items that are truly recyclable. If you are unsure about an item, don’t try to recycle it as it will only slow the sorting process. Recycling rules are not uniform, and can vary quite a bit—even within the same city. Before recycling, make sure you understand your local programs, what can and can’t be recycled, and if you need to sort and/or wash recyclables first. Check out Iwanttoberecycled.org to learn more about options in your area.
• Remove plastic pollutants from the environment when you find it. April 22 is a great time to start your efforts! Most cities have events celebrating Earth Day. Search for activities happening near you, or visit the United States Environmental Protection Agency Earth Day page to find some events and volunteer opportunities in your area. Can’t find an organized activity near you? Start one yourself! Get a group of friends together, don your reflective vests and gloves, and pick up litter (and recycle what you can) in your neighborhood or in a park nearby.
Finally…Make Every Day Earth Day
For more than a century, our parent company headquarters have been adjacent to the banks of the St. Croix—a federally protected National Wild & Scenic River. This connection instills an unyielding respect and appreciation for the irreplaceable value of nature. Our commitment to environmental stewardship is truly in our nature, and we try and remember that EVERY day is Earth Day.
We hope that these tips help you feel that same way…and making the effort doesn’t have to be a major upheaval in your life. There are small things you can do every day, from recycling your soda bottle to saying no to a straw when you’re eating out. From making upcycled craft projects with your kids to choosing minimally packaged produce the next time you’re out shopping… Anything to help our environment is a perfect thing to do on Earth Day and every day. Don't restrict yourself to just one day a year—you can truly make a difference to environmental protection all the time!
If you want to learn more about the history of Earth Day and other ideas of how you can improve your community and our earth, visit A Billion Acts of Green.
Visit our website to learn more information about Renewal by Andersen’s environmental commitment.