Earth Day was founded in 1970 as a day of environmental education and activism organized by U.S. Sen. Gaylord Nelson from Wisconsin. Nelson was an environmental activist. The year before in 1969, Newspaper publisher John McConnell proposed Earth Day at a UNESCO Conference on the Environment and wanted it to fall on the vernal equinox to represent renewal.
The holiday is often celebrated over the course of an entire Earth Week. The 49th Earth Day is April 22, 2019.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Earth Day Calls Attention to key Environmental Issues
People are celebrating Earth Day many ways; pledging to stop using pesticides is one. Climate change, pesticides, and plastic pollution are areas of focus this Earth Day 2019.
According to Californians for Pesticide Reform, “Along with flood, drought and fire, add pests to the list of anticipated impacts of climate change. With a longer growing season and a warmer climate, weeds and insect pests will proliferate, most likely leading to more pesticide use – which is itself responsible for harmful emissions that further exacerbate climate change.”
Climate change is another focus of Earth Day 2019 activists. Vox reports we have little over a decade left before the best-case scenario for global warming passes: “The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group of the world’s top scientists convened by the United Nations, put out a stark report last year highlighting how little time we have left to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, the most ambitious goal under the 2015 Paris climate agreement.”
2. Google Added an Earth Day Icon to the Pixel
Google Pixel users woke on Earth Day to find an globe icon alongside their Google search icon. The 2019 Earth Day Google Doodle explores some of Earth’s organisms.
According to Google, the Doodle “Takes us around the planet we call home to discover some of the awe-inspiring organisms which inhabit it. Specifically, the interactive slideshow Doodle explores six organisms across elevations—along with their earthly superlative!”
Kevin Laughlin created the Doodle. When it came to choosing which organisms to feature, Laughlin said, “The last thing I wanted to do was feature animals based on their cuteness or how they might appeal in some way to my mammalian sensibilities. We tried to focus on having a good range of organisms from around the globe that all had an extra special unique quality or earthly superlative. (Tallest, smallest, oldest, etc.).”
3. The Travel Industry Celebrates Earth Day
Reducing single-use plastics, print outs and package wrapping are a few of the ways you can cut back on waste while traveling.
“Travelers often use disposable items as conveniences that they can simply toss afterward. But when a site hosts millions of visitors and hauls out hundreds of tons of trash a year, as many popular tourist destinations do, all those disposable items add up fast in ways that are quickly apparent on the ground,” The New York Times reports.
Etihad Airways launched a sustainability program for Earth Day. “Etihad will operate a single-use plastic free flight on Earth day. Everything from cups, cutlery to headset bags and toothbrushes are being replaced with eco-friendly alternatives. By June, the airline is hoping to have removed 20% of single use plastic items on flights and by 2022 the goal is 80%. The Earth day flight will be the first of its kind in the ultra-long haul sector, with travelers departing Abu Dhabi, UAE and landing in Brisbane, Australia,” reports Newsweek.
4. Climate Change has Become a Key Voter Concern
“One important group to include in efforts to combat climate change is young people. This group comprises the future leaders of society, besides being citizens of today, and they will be the ones handling the future negative consequences of this global problem,” write Maria Ojala and Yuliya Lakew for Oxford University Press.
According to the BBC, younger generations seem to be clued into the reality that there are indeed climate solutions to this global problem. “The climate crisis has already been solved. We already have all the facts and solutions. All we have to do is to wake up and change,” said Nobel Prize nominee Greta Thunberg in her 2018 TED talk.
Climate change has become a key voter concern across the U.S.
“It’s a ‘from-the-gut’ issue,” said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll. “It affects everything about your life. It’s not just taxes. The environment is the future of the world.”
5. About 8 million Metric tons of Plastic Enter the Ocean Annually
Many plastic products are single-use items that are designed to be thrown out, like water bottles or take out containers. These are used and discarded quickly. If this waste isn’t properly disposed of or managed, it can end up in the ocean, reports NOAA.
“The natural world is rapidly becoming a giant pile of plastic waste. There are literally six—six!—ungodly large garbage patches swelling in the ocean,” according to Popular Science. IN 2018, scientists created a new enzyme capable of breaking down plastic bottles. The bacterium, Ideonella sakaiensis, produced an enzyme capable of degrading PET (polyethylene terephthalate).
91 percent of plastic types are not recyclable.
“It’s really cool to find a soil bacterium that’s able to both break it down and then use the building blocks as a food source, a carbon and energy source,” said Gregg Beckham, a researcher studying plastic degradation at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.