I consider myself to be an environmentalist.
At the age of twelve I found myself in my first environmental march holding a banner over my head and shouting slogans quite shyly. Since then I have been a member in a number of environmental NGOs and participated in events and clean ups. In my daily life I’m loyal to my tote bag and avoid using plastic, I use public transport or my trusted fiets, buy chemical free products, opt for fairtrade and organic products when possible, and most of my meals are plant-based. When elections come along I thoroughly look at environmental policies and projects in manifestos. Also, nature is my place to get away and recharge, there is nothing quite like a stroll surrounded by lush greenery or a dip in the blue sea to make me feel at peace again.
Environmentalism is the philosophy that our environment is worth protecting and we must be involved in its preservation. An environmentalist is then the individual who is concerned about protecting the environment. What I described previously is a very personal form of environmentalism and I’m sure that there are many out there who look at it and think, ‘Well, that’s not how I’d do it!’ I guess there are many different ways in which we can be environmentalists this is depends on our life style and choices, as we try to forge a greener path in an unsustainable system we’re currently experiencing.
The principal reason why we should all be environmentalist is because we are human. We inherently share this common need and responsibility towards the natural environment. This is because we depend on resources and all their services for our own existence, so really the well-being of the environment is also our own. It is only our own failure to not realise this. All the comforts that we have become accustomed to, and the lifestyles which we just think of as normal would not be possible without all these resources. Being an environmentalist is simply the recognition of one’s place and role within this ecosystem and its sustainability.
Earth day is a commemoration of this common commitment to safeguard our environment from deterioration and degradation. This day serves as an annual reminder of our everyday responsibility as individuals and communities to honour the natural environment in which we live (Earth Day Network, 2019).
The origins of this day are set in a time of civil protests and growing ecological awareness. In 1969 founder Gaylord Nelson, then a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin came up with the idea to set up a national day focusing on the environment. This came about after the massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, which was then the largest oil spill by waters the USA had suffered, killing birds, sea creatures and fouling coastlines. On the 22nd of April in 1970, twenty million Americans took to the streets to protest the negative impacts of one hundred and fifty years of industrialization and demanded a healthy sustainable environment for their communities (Earth Day Network, 2019).
“Earth Day 1970 gave voice to that emerging consciousness, channelling the energy of the anti-war protest movement and putting environmental concerns on the front page.”
Today over one billion people participate in various events around the globe. People march, sign petitions, organise clean-ups, meet with their elected officials, plant trees. Corporations and governments use it to make pledges and announce sustainability measures. Faith leaders even connect Earth Day with protecting God’s greatest creations, humans, biodiversity and the planet that we all live on (Earth Day Network, 2019).
These event spread over 193 countries are coordinated by the Earth Day Network (EDN) . The network’s aim is to broaden that which we understand by the environment, to include our health and communities. This richer definition draws the link between the earth’s and humans’ wellbeing, to redirect greater efforts towards the preservation of the natural environment for a common benefit. The Earth Day Network does this by creating civil engagement at multiple civil levels and working with those who are most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.
Diversifying – Educating – Activating
Each year Earth day puts up a lens to a specific environmental issue so the global population can take a closer look and understand. Earth day 2019 will bring to focus the global species decline, with this year’s theme being ‘Protect our species.’ Presently the earth is experiencing the greatest rate of extinction since the dinosaurs, the difference is that this rapid extinction is a result of human activity (Earth Day Network, 2019). Mainly through our unsustainable agriculture, deforestation, habitat loss, pesticides, pollution, poaching and trafficking of species, and impacts of climate change. While extinction of up to 5 species a year is considered normal, scientists estimate that we are now losing species at 1,000 to 10,000 times the normal rate. For more facts on this, click here.
This rapid species extinction presents a risk as it jeopardizes the balance upon which nature thrives. By wiping out other species we are abolishing our chance for a flourishing and sustainable planet. There is good news though, as this extinction rate can still be slowed down, and many of our declining, threatened and endangered species can still recover however this requires for us to collectively demand immediate action.
With this year’s theme the Earth Day Network aims to
- Educate and raise awareness about the accelerating rate of extinction of millions of species and the causes and consequences of this phenomenon.
- Achieve major policy victories that protect broad groups of species as well as individual species and their habitats.
- Build and activate a global movement that embraces nature and its values.
- Encourage individual actions such as adopting plant-based diet and stopping pesticide and herbicide use.
What the first Earth Day back in the 1970’s, was able to do was to bring together people from all walks of life. The realization of the common threat but also the collective potential to come up with solutions and address these environmental issues acted as an impetus to the modern global environmental movement. People are the heart and the conscience of this movement, and it is people who see that environmental issues are taken by their representatives and acted upon. So, all of us; professionals, pensioners, students, and all others are all environmentalists in our ways.
However, if you feel that you could use with some pointers, the Earth Day Network provides some simple Earth Day Tips!