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Climate Action – The 50th Anniversary of Earth Day

April 21, 2020
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(Photo Cred: EUROPE: Young protesters with Extinction Rebellion take to the streets of London in OctoberMatt Stuart—MAPS)

It’s the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day this week. 

The theme for Earth Day 2020 is: Climate Action. It may seem a strange to stop thinking about coronavirus, it’s rightfully dominating our thoughts, but let’s try for a minute.

What is Earth Day?

On April 22, 1970, 20 million Americans marched on the streets in hundreds of cities across the country. They stepped out to protest environmental injustice and demand protections going forward for our planet. The first Earth Day is credited with launching the modern environmental movement.

It was action taken to protest the visible damage of the environment around us — there were oil spills, horizon smothering smog, rivers that literally caught fire from pollution. 

How does it make you feel reading that? I’m conflicted honestly. That number of people in 1970 was 10% of the country’s population. Where are we now? Why haven’t we made more progress in 50 years? I’m angry that the Trump administration is cutting funding to the EPA and rolling back protections. 50 years seems like so much time to have done more. 

On the other hand, we have made progress. Before the first Earth Day, there were far fewer environmental laws in the United States. The Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts, Creation of the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) – these all eventually came from Earth Day.

Also, when I look for signs of progress, you can find thousands of groups and individuals dedicating their lives, money, and work to keeping our world health. Just look to the splash that Greta Thunberg made in 2019. She went from 1 cardboard sign that said “School Strike for Climate” to leading the largest climate strike in history in September 2019 – just one year later. Over 4 million people around the world showed up.

In his recent book, We Are The Weather, Jonathan Safran Foer says:
“ … it may be a neo-liberal myth that individual decisions have ultimate power, it is a defeatist myth that individual decisions have no power at all.”
(Thanks to Zero Waste Chef for highlighting this quote!)

And, Christiana Figueres (exec. Secretary on UN Framework Convention on Climate Change…who helped negotiate the 2015 Paris Agreement) points out in Time Magazine this week, a global response to this pandemic and to climate change requires systemic changes. Governments need to lead and set parameters that keep us all organized and safe, but the situation also demands individual behavior change. 

Look at us all now, individuals, wearing masks, staying home. If any one of us did this it wouldn’t matter, it would be just one drop in the tsunami required. But what is a tsunami if not millions of drops?

Though I feel angry sometimes, defeated occasionally, or just like one teeny tiny voice facing a terrifying reality that our planet is in peril, I know that I can take action. There are small, easy things that I can do daily that will add up and make a difference when you all join me. 

Climate change is the biggest challenge to the future of humanity. If we don’t get a grip on it, what world will my children live in? I feel stronger and happier when I’m trying to make things better, no regrets because I did my part. 

So on this 50th anniversary of Earth Day, please join me and take action against climate change. No effort is too small. Let’s be a tsunami of good. 

Alison Mountford is the Founder and CEO of Ends+Stems, a meal planning service designed to reduce household food waste and stop the effects of climate change. Alison has been named a Rubicon Waste Fit Champion, was a finalist for the Spoon Tech Startup Showcase, and has appeared on many podcasts and radio shows, and works as a food waste consultant.

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