Earth Day 2020: Climate Action

Meaghan O'Neil
24 March 2020

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This year marks the 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day event, held in the United States and involving 20 million people across the nation. Protests took place on 22 April, 1970, to spread environmental awareness in a society that had been ignorant of the destruction being caused by lead-filled gasoline, factory pollution, chlorofluorocarbons, and litter. They dispelled the dangerous attitude that nature could easily handle these problems. In the US, the Clean Water, Clean Air, and Endangered Species Acts were created from this historical event, as well as the Environmental Protection Agency.

Today, Earth Day is a global occasion, celebrated in almost every country. It's the largest non-religious observance worldwide, showing how important the sanctity of the environment is to over a billion people. Earth Day is a day to adapt our behavior to help the environment and thus ourselves, and to ignite changes in policy so corporate money does not speak louder than climate change.

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Source: Earth Day Network

Climate Action is the theme for 2020, showcasing that the biggest challenge to the future of humanity is climate change. Earth Day will kick-start a focus on important areas of research: plastics, air quality, insects, climate, food security, and water quality. Throughout the year, data collection widgets will be used to support each of these categories to help promote better environmental policies. You can join in, too, if you have a smartphone. The Earth Challenge 2020 mobile app is available from 1 April.

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Source: Earth Day Network

The Covid-19 quarantine has had unexpected results for the environment. Many typically polluted areas have experienced cleaner air, cleaner water, and a return of wildlife, including the canals of Venice, Italy. Regardless of how the quarantine may affect Earth Day activities, something positive we can keep from this experience is the knowledge that lowering carbon footprints can lead to immediate positive change. Talk to your employers and other office-based companies about continuing to allow employees to work from home. Telecommuting reduces air pollution from cars, the amount of gasoline used, the amount of sleep lost to early mornings spent in traffic, and even the energy needed to keep an office floor climate controlled.

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Take action this Earth Day:

  • Start a local cleanup, by a roadside, stream, or forest hiking trail.
  • Join a climate strike. There will be one in George, South Africa, in front of town hall from 12h00 to 13h00 on 24 April. For other locations in South Africa (including Johannesburg, Pretoria, and Cape Town) and worldwide (and updates based on Covid-19 isolations), visit Earth Day's website.
  • Use the Earth Challenge 2020 mobile app starting 1 April to report amounts and locations of litter and be involved in other data collection for the Earth Day Network.
  • Go for a hike and enjoy the nature around you. If you are in social isolation, this is a pleasant activity to get you outside but still remain at a distance from others. Discover some of the native flora and fauna and tell others what you've learned.
  • Start a produce garden in your backyard, or even in a window garden.
  • Go solar! Find out if you qualify for a tax incentive for installing solar panels for your home. South Africa is one of several countries that has a program to help defray the cost of purchasing and installing solar panels. Besides this incentive, you will also reduce or eliminate your electric bill every year.

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