Every April, millions of individuals mobilize in support of Earth Day, the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement and now the largest secular observance in the world. It is to be expected that the significance of Earth Day and its ardent message of environmental protection grow stronger year by year, in response to the escalating climate and ecological crisis. Earth Day 2021, however, is unique within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has created a heightened sense of community and interconnectivity between us and the natural world. This year’s theme, Restore Our Earth, centres our personal responsibility to play a positive role in the environment by harnessing our ingenuity as humans to revive the world’s ecosystems.
Scientists have long since highlighted the correlation between human mistreatment of biodiversity and the outbreak of COVID-19. Harmful human impact such as deforestation and factory farming has increased our susceptibility to new pathogens and zoonoses. The effects of the resulting pandemic have been felt acutely by all, meaning this year’s Earth Day has greater resonance. Our sense of invulnerability has been shaken and we have been brought closer to the natural world. For this reason, 2021 marks a turning point in our environmental efforts. Restore Our Earth focuses not on mitigating or adapting negative human impact, such as cutting down on emissions, but rather remodelling our approach by using our creativity to consider what we can give back to nature. This ethos is echoed in the environmental manifesto ‘Cradle to Cradle’, in which authors Braungart and McDonough explain that to merely aim for “less bad” human impact is a “failure of the imagination” and an acceptance of a “depressing vision of our species’ role in the world”. We must reject the self-fulfilling prophecy that humans are nature’s antithesis and instead transform this narrative by using green technologies, climate and environmental literacy and innovative thinking to play a positive role in the world.
In order for us to develop cutting-edge solutions to the environmental crisis, an education revolution must take place. Reports stress that implementing climate and environmental literacy in schools, workplaces and communities is the key to a greener future. Campaigning for this plays an important part in the work EARTHDAY.ORG™ because of its potential to create a greener economy and workforce and “allow citizens to engage with their governments in a meaningful way to solve climate change.” Not only does climate and environmental literacy cover science, but it also involves nurturing a genuine appreciation for the world we live in and raises generations of informed and engaged environmental stewards. For this reason, green activists are pushing for compulsory climate change education worldwide as part of the Paris Agreement, and are also hopeful for a concurrence on this issue to be made at the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference this November.
Much of our environmental work this year has, of course, been forced to go digital. Whilst online activism can be considered a fallback option amid the pandemic, it is also extremely influential in its own right. Online citizen science initiatives such as the Global Earth Challenge have proved to be extremely popular and elsewhere, social media has exploded with discussions about the climate and ecological crisis, making environmental enthusiasts of those who were otherwise disengaged. There is no doubt that this shift to digital activism will outlive the pandemic and continue to be a force for good. However, as more and more social media platforms emerge, greater importance will be placed on their green credentials. It is important to Verne Global that the data behind these apps be sustainably backed if they are to make real, positive change.