Monday, April 22, 2013

Earth Day 2013!

Landscape in Nepal
Today, people across the world will celebrate the 43rd annual Earth Day. This year’s theme is The Face of Climate Change.

Much has changed since the inaugural Earth Day celebration in 1970. For starters, the world’s population has almost doubled—from 3.7 million to over 7 billion—which places unprecedented pressure on natural resources, land, and water.  With the world population expected to exceed 9 billion by 2050 (with most growth occurring in developing countries), understanding the human impact on the environment is more important than ever before.
John Seager, president of the Population Connection, discusses where we stand on Earth Day 2013:
“One in every eight people are already hungry. Climate change’s effects on the environment are expected to double food prices by 2050. In places where people live on less than $2 per day and spend a large percentage of their income on food, that spike would spell disaster. Water resources are also tight. Sure, our planet may be covered in water, but only 2.5 percent of the water is fresh. Around 1.2 billion people live in areas where water is scarce. By 2025, half of the people around the globe are expected to live in areas of water stress. And we’re not the only human beings on this planet. When human populations expand, they can crowd out plants and animals. Loss of land to development can force animals out of their territories and destroy plant biodiversity.”

So what can be done to mitigate the negative effects of growing populations on the earth, to limit environmental degradation, and to slow climate change? Not surprisingly, suggestions are endless. Seager suggests investing in women, whose education benefits entire societies. “When girls and women are educated and active in their communities, they boost entire economies. And it will help families and communities to be more resilient to the problems that climate change is already causing.”  India battles for sustainability by arguing against the construction of dams that will irreversibly alter the landscape, harm fragile ecology, and potentially cause severe flooding in earthquake-prone areas. Campaigns to personalize the massive challenges of climate change include promoting awareness of alternative and eco-friendly practices, such as recycling, conserving energy, and limiting pollution. While policy is implemented by governments, sustainable practices must be carried out by the population. Thus, demonstrating the real effects of climate change on people’s lives increases awareness and allows for the adoption of sustainable practices—small individual efforts that have meaningful, and lasting, results.

Waterfall in Brazil
While the challenges facing our planet seem ominous, it is inspiring to see how many nations, how many people, are making a commitment to acknowledge what must be done to safeguard the environment. Celebrations of Earth are happening worldwide, each dedicated to their own concerns and solutions. The common thread? An emphasis on awareness and a community approach that shrink concern for the environment from a looming mass of concerns to a manageable list of sustainable practices that can be implemented on a smaller scale. By fostering personal awareness of environmental protection, sustainability becomes the responsibility of all, as citizens are directly involved in contributing to the common good. 

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