Earth Day’s 50th anniversary is to be celebrated Wednesday around the world online due to the novel coronavirus outbreak.
It coincides with the signing of the landmark climate pact, Paris Agreement in 2016 in the UN.
“COVID-19 has reminded us all how vulnerable our world is to sudden shocks. It is a dress rehearsal for the even bigger shocks that will come if we fail to address climate change,” Nick Nuttall, strategic communications director at the Earth Day Network, told Anadolu Agency.
Nuttall, who is also the deputy spokesman for Earth Day 2020, said that rather than only focusing on “green groups” the day reaches out to different segments of the society, including poverty groups, teachers, universities and faith leaders, to raise awareness on the planet which distinguishes it from other campaigns or networks.
“Indeed, if the world and humanity are going to resolve the environmental challenges and crises unfolding like loss of species and climate change, we need to unite a critical mass of the public behind this important vision,” he added.
Going back to the 70s, Nuttall said, the day originated in the U.S. when millions of people were worried about the war in Vietnam, nuclear weapons, civil rights and the environment.
Although at that time climate change was not as worrying as it is today, he said that “pesticides harming wildlife and toxic fumes from uncontrolled industry, power stations and a growing number of cars” were the issues that concerned people.
“On that day 50 years ago, over 20 million young Americans came out and said enough is enough and the then President Nixon, not a natural environmentalist, saw that he needed to act as these more than 20 million young Americans would be voters,” Nuttall added.
Referring to the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), clean air and clean water acts as well as the UN Environment Program, he said these were the positive outcome of the first action in 1970.
Saying that while Earth Day has grown from a national day to an international one, it has also built a generation of environmentally conscious people.
“I think its best days are not behind but ahead because while a great deal has been achieved, the world needs to move from incremental change to exponential change and at speed and at scale,” he added.
Climate action theme
Touching on this year’s theme, he said, “it has to start today” before it is too late to take action on climate change.
“Climate change has long been seen as an issue of the future, but we can see a rise in extreme weather events, the rapid loss of ice from the Arctic and mountain tops,” he said, adding that the world is failing to achieve a low carbon century.
He welcomed the shift to renewable energy resources, but said there was a need to decarbonize building and make agriculture sustainable.
“In order to avoid dangerous climate change, the world needs to spend around 1-2 percent of GDP annually … We should learn that it is better to prevent a global crisis by investing modest sums now, rather than spending trillions of dollars to deal with it when it comes,” he added.
Along with the Earth Day climate conferences that will take place until April 25, there will be a live program on April 22 on earthday.org.
Although mass gatherings and protests have been canceled due to the deadly coronavirus pandemic, environmental actions and climate protests continue to take place digitally around the world.