Earth Day 2021

Take steps to protect our planet

Earth Day is observed on April 22 every year in order to make people aware of the Earth's  environment. Earth Day, founded by former US Senator Gaylord Nelson, was first observed in 1970 to promote ecology and raise awareness of the growing concerns for air, water, and soil pollution.  Addressed as "International Mother Earth Day" by the United Nations, the Earth Day 2021 is going to be observed today with the theme "Restore Our Earth."

Earth Day is commemorated every year to highlight environmental issues like loss of biodiversity, increasing pollution, etc. Changes in biodiversity affect ecosystem functioning and cause significant disruptions in ecosystems. According to the UN, “despite ongoing efforts, biodiversity is deteriorating worldwide at rates unprecedented in human history. It is estimated that around one million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction”.

Earth Day is mostly celebrated by performing outdoor activities individually or in groups. Activities such as planting trees, picking up roadside trash, conducting various programs for motivating sustainable living like making use of recycled materials, are performed. Some people also sign petitions to governments, calling for effective and immediate action to stop global warming and to reverse environmental damage.

The theme is based on the emerging concept that rejects the idea that our only options to save the planet are to mitigate or adapt to the impacts of climate change and other environmental damage. Scientists, non-governmental organizations, business, and governments worldwide now are looking at natural system processes and emerging green technologies to restore the world’s ecosystems and forests, conserve and rebuild soils, improve farming practices, restore wildlife populations and rid the world’s oceans of plastics.

While the world waits for global political and business leaders to take decisive action to reduce carbon emissions, natural processes including reforestation and soil conservation can store massive amounts of carbon while restoring biodiversity, clean water and air and rebalancing ecological systems. Restoration is pragmatic and necessary to reduce climate change. 

Restoration also brings hope, itself an important ingredient in the age of COVID-19. The impacts of the pandemic have illustrated with painful clarity that the planet faces two crises and they are connected: global environmental degradation and its connection to our health. Deforestation, wildlife trade, air and water pollution, human diets, climate change and other issues have all fed into a breakdown of our natural systems, leading to new and fatal diseases, such as the current pandemic, and a breakdown of the global economy. 

The current pandemic has shut down the economies of the world and is causing large numbers of deaths. Climate change is an existential threat to our global civilization. Neither of these two challenges recognize national borders and both are challenges where the scientific community has for many decades provided detailed forewarning. The alternative is focused on the well-being of all people and the restoration of our ecosystems.

Ten simple steps we can take to protect our earth:

•    Reduce, reuse, and recycle: Follow the three R's to conserve natural resources and landfill space.

•    Volunteer: Volunteer for cleanups of waste in your community. You can get involved in protecting your watershed too.

•    Education: When you further your own education, you can help others understand the importance and value of our natural resources.

•    Conserve water: Use less water to reduce the amount of waste and runoff water going into the ocean.

•    Food choice: Learn how to make smart seafood choices.

•    Shop wisely: Buy less plastic and bring a reusable shopping bag.

•    Use long-lasting light bulbs: Energy efficient light bulbs reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Also flip the light switch off when you leave the room!

•    Plant tree: Trees provide food and oxygen. They help save energy, clean the air, and help combat climate change.

•    Don't throw chemicals into our waterways. Choose non-toxic chemicals in the home and office.

•    Try to bike more and drive less.

The theme for Earth Day for 2021 "Restore Our Earth" is based on the concept that rejects the idea that our only options to save the planet are to mitigate or adapt to the impacts of climate change and other environmental damage. A healthy population begins with a healthy environment, and scientists around the world have warned that unless we take better care of the planet, we are at risk of even deadlier viruses emerging. Mahatma Gandhi said, “Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not every man’s greed”. If the consumption and production behaviors continue to occur at the current pace, and by 2050, the population reaches the anticipated 9.6 billion; we will need two more planets besides the Earth to accommodate the envisaged population. Therefore, the most potentially effective strategy for a healthy, happy, and sustainable future for the next generations will be to live satisfactorily within the planetary boundaries consuming limited resources while abandoning our greedy lifestyle.

Md. Touhidul Alam Khan is Additional Managing Director of Standard Bank Limited. He is the first Certified Sustainability Reporting Assurer (CSRA) in Bangladesh