Today marks the 43rd Earth Day – a day to celebrate the place we all call home. Every year, people all over the world host events to honor the Earth and support the growing appreciation and awareness of environmental protection. The first Earth Day, held in 1970, was supported by nearly 20 million Americans. Today, there are over 190 countries that observe this day. Yet the encouraging message remains the same: protect our planet.
This year, the Earth Day Network’s “Faces of Climate Change” promotes the diversity of climate change by raising awareness of climate change as an issue to human health, as well as its effects on wildlife forests, severe weather patterns and more. The changing climate impacts all inhabitants of the Earth.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency eloquently describes the issues climate change presents to our planet: the earth is warming and it is affecting everyone. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains the connection between climate change and human health: as the climate becomes warmer, extreme weather events (such as heat waves, floods, hurricanes and more) occur more frequently and more severely all over the world, and our ability to protect the health of our families and neighbors becomes more difficult. In some parts of the world, droughts and floods impact food and water sources leading to malnutrition or disease. Sometimes droughts force families to relocate leaving behind their homes and their way of life causing mental distress. Water sources can become contaminated. With increasing temperatures, the risk of emerging or reemerging infectious diseases (i.e., malaria or dengue fever) increases. To learn more about climate change and public health, read Get the Facts: Climate is a Public Health Issue, by the American of Public Health Association.
Overwhelming scientific consensus indicates that the climate is changing in part because of human activity. According to the World Health Organization, our exceptional ability to emit carbon dioxide and other harmful greenhouse gases over the past 50 years has triggered changes in temperature, natural disasters and patterns of infection. Collectively, we emit these harmful pollutants via our use of electricity, transportation, industry, housing and agriculture. Individually, there are many steps we can take to reduce our use of greenhouse gases, such as walking, biking or taking public transportation; turning off lights when we are not at home, buying locally-sourced produce, and more.
Part of raising awareness of Earth Day is prompting individuals to take action by doing something different in their lives to protect our planet. In the spirit of doing something different, tell us what you are doing different to support the international Earth Day celebration.