Digital Editor Halima Ahad discusses the history of Earth Day and its continuing relevance in climate change politics

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The 22nd of April each year marks Earth Day, an initiative which aims to highlight the importance of environmental protection. Set up in 1970 by Gaylord Nelson and Denis Hayes, the idea first began as a spark when both men saw the damage across the US, and wanted to act in terms of changing this. The first Earth Day took place during 1970, when millions of US citizens protested on the streets about the importance of initiatives to save the environment, whether they be local or national.

The end of 1970 sparked a significant change in terms of the political response towards these global positive protests and initiatives. This saw the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of once-in-a-lifetime environmental laws, such as the National Environmental Education Act which was implemented in 1990 and proposed increased national leadership to increase environmental literacy across educational settings.

People were as passionate as ever about raising their voices on the topic of climate change

Previous themes of Earth Day included 2020’s ‘Climate Action’ and although the Covid pandemic hit, people were as passionate as ever about raising their voices on the topic of climate change and how it can detrimentally impact our lives in the present and future.

Each year of Earth Day brings a new theme. This year’s celebration saw the theme of ‘Planet versus Plastics’. The initiative this year aimed to raise awareness of the detrimental effects that plastic pollution may have on our society today, as well as the overall health of the planet. This year’s theme is very poignant as it comes in advance of the UN plastics treaty in which many of its members will be trialled on creating a framework which will help reduce overall plastic waste across the world. Many countries have called for the end of plastic pollution by 2040 and this year’s Earth Day initiative will help them achieve this and much more.

Many countries have called for the end of plastic pollution by 2040

Earth Day has had its many achievements during its short reign, including recent significant programmes such as planting millions of trees, and supporting farmers with sustainable agricultural practices to move their lives forward in a sustainable and healthy manner towards the planet. Another notable achievement of the initiative was the signing of the Paris climate agreement which took place during 2016. The signing saw world leaders coming together and agreeing to prevent global temperatures rising further than 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Earth Day is a wonderful initiative which should be celebrated today. Our planet matters and it is up to us, as global citizens, to protect the Earth for our future successors as well as the numerous flora and fauna which reside on it to this day.

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