Kaduna residents decry lack of portable water Thinking of the future as the world marks Earth Day
Every year on April 22, over a billion people in 200 countries take action for Earth Day. From Niger to San Francisco, Beijing to Brussels, Moscow to Marrakesh, people plant trees, clean up their communities, contact their elected officials, and more—all on behalf of the environment.
Like Earth Days of the past, Earth Day 2014 focused on the unique environmental challenges of our time. As the world’s population migrates to cities, and as the bleak reality of climate change becomes increasingly clear, the need to create sustainable communities is more important than ever.
Earth Day 2014, according to the organizers, would seek to do just that through its global theme: Green Cities. With smart investments in sustainable technology, forward-thinking public policy, and an educated and active public, we can transform our cities and forge a sustainable future. Nothing is more powerful than the collective action of a billion people.
The Green Cities Campaign
Earth Day Network launched the Green Cities campaign in 2013 to help cities around the world become more sustainable and reduce their carbon footprint. Focused on three key elements – buildings, energy, and transportation – the campaign aims to help cities accelerate their transition to a cleaner, healthier, and more economically viable future through improvements in efficiency, investments in renewable technology, and regulation reform.
Most of the world currently relies on outdated electric generation structures that are extremely inefficient and dirty. To help cities become more sustainable, we need to redesign the current system, transition to renewable energy sources, and implement 21st century solutions.
Buildings account for nearly one third of all global greenhouse gas emissions. Through simple efficiency and design improvements to buildings we can reduce those emissions drastically. To realise that vision, cities need to update ordinances, switch to performance based building codes, and improve financing options.
Transportation is the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, three quarters of which comes directly from road vehicles. To reduce these emissions and the resulting smog, we need to improve standards, increase public transportation options, invest in alternative transportation, and improve city ‘walkability and bikeability.’
Through an informative website and a series of in-depth toolkits, the campaign will educate the public about each element of green cities and spur individuals to take civic action by signing petitions, sending letters, and organizing events.
In addition, Earth Day Network will work with partners on the ground in strategically placed cities and towns to organize grassroots efforts to improve local codes, ordinances, and policies that will help cities become model green cities.
Spanning Earth Day 2014 and 2015, the campaign will work with an international team of partners, including local organisers, nonprofits, businesses, and governments to help increase public awareness, mobilise support for appropriate policies, and generate concrete commitments for innovative and replicable initiatives.
Climate change is real:
According to a new a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), climate change is already affecting people throughout the world.
The report said: “In recent decades, changes in climate have caused impacts on natural and human systems on all continents and across the oceans.”
We have already experienced many of the negative effects of climate change such as damaged food crops, more extreme weather, melting glaciers, the spread of disease, and rising sea levels that threaten lowland communities. The report also warns that any future increase of temperature could lead to “abrupt and irreversible changes.”
The report is the second in a series of three, the first of which was released in September 2013 and attributed conclusively that humans were the dominant cause of climate change. This second report, however, seeks to address the effects of climate change as a series of risks that will ultimately increase exponentially as temperatures warm.
The report found that the greatest risks of climate change are those faced by people living in low-lying regions, such as coastal areas and islands, which are particularly susceptible to storms, flooding, and sea-level rise. Unfortunately, it found that people living in urban areas are also at risk of inland flooding and extreme heat waves that could potentially lead to other disasters stemming from the destruction of power plants and water treatment centers. Food production is also at risk due to flooding, drought, and changing rainfall patterns.
Although it may seem obvious to some, the consequences of climate change will be felt disproportionately by the young and elderly, and especially by the poor. In fact, climate change itself is expected to increase wealth disparity worldwide and slow down economic growth all together.
The report does say, however, that the consequences of climate change can be reduced with ambitious efforts by governments around the world to cut back greenhouse gas emissions.
The researchers behind the report hope that by reframing the issue as a series of risks and potential consequences, governments will feel more pressure to act sooner, rather than later.
Facts to note about Earth Day:
* The first celebration of Earth Day took place on April 22, 1970, making 2014’s observance the 44th anniversary of Earth Day.
* Earth Day was founded by U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson from Wisconsin who wanted to respond to an oil spill off Santa Barbara, California. President Bill Clinton awarded Sen. Nelson the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1995 for his role as Earth Day founder.
* The first Earth Day got a lot of attention when more than 20 million people participated and by the end of 1970, Congress authorized the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
* Although Earth Day originated in the United States, it went global in 1990 with 140 countries participating. In 2000, more than 180 countries participated.
* Chicago made a big splash on Earth Day 2007 with festivities at Lincoln Park Zoo drawing more than 40,000 people, a single-day attendance record.
* In 2009, the United Nations renamed Earth Day and now calls it International Mother Earth Day. That name doesn’t appear to be catching in the U.S.
* Earth Day Network members host 10,000 Earth Day events around the world. The theme of the 2014 Earth Day is Green Cities and you can find a listing of events around the world here.