Written by Lwandile Tyeba

Earth Day is an international celebration observed on the 22nd of April each year, since 1970. It was established to raise awareness of and address environmental issues threatening the planet, such as pollution, deforestation, and wildlife poaching. On the 22nd of April 1970, Gaylord Nelson an activist in the United States of America (USA) organized the first-ever Earth Day, where he taught participants about the importance of nature conservation. An estimated 20 million people across the USA attended the event. This event led to the formulation of the Clean Air Act of 1970 and later the Endangered Species Act of 1973. Over the years, the event expanded, with other countries joining in, and today, over 192 countries celebrate Earth Day globally.

Earth Day Network

The Earth Day Network is a partner organisation that was established to fund and support the Earth Day mission throughout the year. The network is in collaboration with more than 75 000 partners to develop environmental democracy. Its objective is to ensure that all people have a moral right to a healthy, sustainable environment. It seeks to diversify, teach and activate environmental movement globally.

Earth Day Theme

Each year, Earth Day is given a new theme addressing a specific environmental issue. For example, in 2023, the theme was “Invest in Our Planet.” The event primarily focuses on addressing the issue stated in the theme but also tackles other environmental issues. The theme for 2024 is “Planet and Plastic,” aiming to raise awareness of the health risks of plastics and to end all single-use plastics. It also aims to advocate for the development of a robust United Nations Treaty on Plastic Pollution and to phase out fast fashion. Litter is one of the major issues our planet faces today, with plastics taking up to 450 years to decompose in landfills. There is a need for awareness programmes and strategies to reduce, reuse, and recycle plastics.

How can you contribute?

There are various ways individuals can contribute to Earth Day depending on the environmental issues in their country. Deforestation is one of the major environmental issues, with approximately 15 billion trees cut down globally every year. Trees are essential for human and animal life, as they absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen needed for breathing. They also provide shade and shelter for animals. Individuals can combat deforestation by organising awareness programs and planting trees in their local areas. Other ways to help include limiting water usage, participating in litter cleanups, organising awareness programs, volunteering with organisations, and turning off lights during the day. Awareness programmes need to be organised to teach children in schools and communities about plastic pollution and its impact on the planet.

Who can participate and how?

Anyone can get involved in Earth Day from any country. You can create your own initiative and invite people to join you. For example, you can organise a litter clean-up in your community or workplace and promote your event so that others can participate too. You can also volunteer with an organisation that has activities planned for the event. On the 22 April 2024, Milnerton Racecourse Conservation Area will be hosting a litter clean-up. Please come and join us! Bookings can be made with the Site Manager: [email protected].

Let us each do our part on Earth Day to help save the planet. We are all responsible for protecting our planet for ourselves and for future generations. People from all nations need to be aware of and mindful about the importance of environmental protection for human health and the natural resources crucial for survival.

“If you do not take action, no one else will.”