It was propounded by Gaylord Nelson, a US senator from Wisconsin, after he had witnessed the devastation caused by an enormous oil spill in Santa Barbara, California in 1969 and realised the implications of it.
The day went on to be celebrated globally in the 1990s and at present at least 192 countries celebrate it. According to Earth Day Network, this year, the day is dedicated to spreading awareness about the pollution caused by plastic and the urgent need to stop using it.
On this day, people on social media too are raising their voice against unhealthy practices like deforestation and use of plastics. While one wrote, “If you buy vegetables, the seller puts them in many plastic bags & finally in one big plastic bag.
earth day 2018 theme essay importance
It happens daily, across India. Just estimate the amount of plastic waste we produce in a day by just one activity. Instead Use Cloth carry bags & stop it from happening,” another wrote, “All of us drink, breathe & eat plastic already. End Plastic Pollution#EarthDay
22 April 2018.” While another, urging a change, wrote, “Where once there were leaves, where once there was spring, where once there was life, now all that there is, is wreckage. We need change this #EarthDay.”
1) The plastic problem is even worse than we thought
One of the bleakest stories of the year so far was the report of a six-ton sperm whale washing up on the shores of southern Spain with 64 pounds of plastic in its stomach, a grotesque sign of the alarming rate at which we’re dumping plastics into the ocean.
Plastic waste accumulates at a dock in Lampung, Indonesia Barcroft Media/Getty Images
These kinds of findings have prompted environmental activists pushing to reduce or end the use of disposable plastics. Curbing plastic pollution is a key theme in this year’s Earth Day and there’s a high-profile campaign underway to ban plastic straws in particular.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May called this week to ban plastic straws, swabs, and stirrers. Some researchers last year openly called for an international agreement to control plastic pollution. And there was one bit of hopeful news for potentially more effective disposal in the future: scientists have discovered an enzyme that can digest plastic.
2) We lost the last male Northern white Rhino
Another benchmark we’re obliged to revisit each Earth Day is how many species we’ve lost forever.
In December, the US Fish and Wildlife Service declared the beaverpond marstonia, a tiny freshwater snail found in Georgia, to be extinct. The Center for Biological Diversity called it the first species declared extinct under the Trump administration, a consequence of water overuse for agriculture and pollution.
As the Northern White rhinos have been rapidly decimated by poaching, conservationists have tried desperate tactics to resuscitate them, including creating a Tinder profile for Sudan. The more viable strategy now is in vitro fertilization of a female Southern White Rhino with the eggs from the two remaining Northern White Rhino females and stored northern white rhino semen.
3) A few species have bounced back. And we discovered some brand new ones.
The Black-eyed Leaf Frog hopped back from the edge of the abyss. It’s now been classified as a species of “least concern” after having been “critically endangered,” the last step before extinction.
“This lovely leaf frog is hope in a small, green-and-black package,” said Jennifer Luedtke, an amphibian specialist at Global Wildlife Conservation, in a statement.
Black-eyed leaf frog, Agalychnis moreletii, in Guatemala. Robin Moore
Researchers reported this year that other tropical frog species, like the variable harlequin frog, are also bouncing back after a fungal epidemic drastically slashed their numbers.
The Chesapeake Bay’s striped bass has also rebounded to a healthy population.
Scientists also described some new species for the first time. The California Academy of Sciences added 85 new species of plants and animals last year to its catalog, including “16 flowering plants, one elephant-shrew, 10 sharks, 22 fish, three scorpions, seven ants, 13 nudibranchs, seven spiders, three wasps, one fossil sand dollar, one deepwater coral, and one lizard.”
4) Greenland’s ice is melting faster than we realized
We know the Earth is warming, but we saw several jarring examples over the past year of how quickly and dramatically this is playing out.
Earth’s polar regions are warming twice as fast as the average rate of the planet. NOAA scientists reported late last year that the Arctic losing ice at its fastest rate in at least 1,500 years.
We also saw a heat wave in the Arctic. In the middle of winter. For the third year in a row. January saw the lowest extent of Arctic sea ice for the month on record. The sea ice maximum for the Arctic, which typically occurs in March, was at its second-lowest on record this year, bested only by 2017.
This warming is playing out in sharp and sudden ways across the Arctic. Researchers reported last year that a section of Greenland’s ice sheet suddenly started melting 80 percent faster. Another study found Greenland’s entire ice sheet is melting at its fastest rate in at least 400 years, and that the melt rate sped up drastically in 1990.
5) Seagrass is regrowing in the Chesapeake Bay. And humans can take credit.
The Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in the United States, and for decades it was also one of its most polluted. Massive quantities of fertilizer, waste from farm and poultry operations, and stormwater in Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, and Pennsylvania were leaching into the water.
“Nutrient reductions and biodiversity conservation are effective strategies to aid the successful recovery of degraded systems at regional scales, a finding which is highly relevant to the utility of environmental management programs worldwide,” the PNAS authors write.
6) We’re woefully unprepared for disasters. And we aren’t learning enough from them.
2017 was a brutal year for natural disasters in the US, and the ongoing blackout in Puerto Rico continues to remind us just how vulnerable we are to extreme weather especially as climate change makes these kinds of events more intense.
“Human-induced climate change likely increased Harvey’s total rainfall around Houston by at least 19 percent, with a best estimate of 37 percent,” Michael Wehner, a staff scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory said at the American Geophysical Union conference in December.
Despite all this, we’re already going back to our old habits. Homes are being rebuilt in floodplains around Houston and construction is still booming along Florida’s coasts despite rising seas. Meanwhile, California homeowners are rebuilding their torched properties in the same spots. Let’s do better.
7) We’re getting closer to finding another Earth out there
As far as we know, Earth is the only planet with life in the universe. But scientists are getting better at finding tantalizingly similar planets. And as astrophysics and astrobiology come together to make these discoveries, we keep learning more about our own home.
There’s been a boom in exoplanet discoveries since the launch of the Kepler Space Telescope in 2009. Of the more than 3,500 planets we’ve found outside of our solar system, Kepler has helped identify more than 2,500 of them.
All the planets outside of our solar system that we know of so far. NASA
These planets range in size from larger-than-Jupiter to smaller-than-Earth.
— NASA (@NASA) April 19, 2018
Does that mean we’re on our way to charting a cosmic escape route if we screw up the planet we’re on? Hardly.