42 – according to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy the ultimate answer to life, the universe and everything. So given that last Sunday was the 42nd annual Earth Day, we must have finally solved the problems of climate change and sustainable living, right?
Well, sadly, no. But this year saw the campaign ‘Mobilize the Earth’ which, according to the World Earth Day website, aims “to provide people with the opportunity to unite their voices in a call for a sustainable future”. Put us all together and we really do have a brain the size of a planet, and we can do a lot more with it than poor old Marvin.
Origins of Earth Day
The inspiration for the first Earth Day came in 1969 from two sources – a huge oil spill in California, and the Vietnam War. US Senator Gaylord Nelson saw the disastrous consequences of the Californian oil spill and decided to stage an environmental ‘teach-in’, modelled on the student anti-war protests of the time.
20 million Americans participated in the first Earth Day. Decades later it has become a truly global event, with people from all over the world taking the time to celebrate the planet and campaign for environmental awareness.
Earth Day takes place every year on April 22nd, and Earth Week runs from April 16th to 22nd.
How the planet celebrated this year
Environmental marches may be the staple of Earth Day celebrations – with masks, costumes and face paint galore – but this year there were plenty of other unusual events staged in honour of the little blue planet.
- In Budapest thousands of cyclists took to the streets for the Critical Mass bike ride. They rode to the city park, where they then held up their bicycles over their heads – a workout for the legs and the arms!
- In New York City over 100 new trees were planted by volunteers.
- The Nature Conservancy attempted to break the world record for the most people picnicking in 24 hours. There were hundreds of picnics held all over the world, commemorating the nourishment the earth gives 7 billion people every day.
- Starbucks in Canada gave free coffee to people who turned up at their cafés with reusable travel mugs, instead of disposable paper cups.
- The film ‘One Day On Earth’ was screened at locations all over the globe. The film was an enormous collaborative project, made from over 3000 hours of footage shot on 11/11/2011, and submitted by thousands of volunteers around the world.
Every day is Earth Day
Earth Day may be over for another year, but the message is enduring and there are still lots of things you can do.
Why not pledge an act of green? It can be anything from writing to your MP about the importance of green issues, to opting to cycle to work one day a week. Over a billion
pledges have already been made and it couldn’t be easier to make your own promise to the planet.
You can also sign the Earth Day Network petition demanding renewable energy for all, which will be presented at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development. The state of the economy currently dominates politics and the media, and this is one way you can remind world leaders that green issues are still of huge significance.
If you’re feeling inspired you can also check out other environmental campaigns online. Whether you want
to litter pick on a beach, or protest to save a conservation area near you, you can find plenty of information and resources by visiting websites such as Clean Up The World.
Try and make every day Earth Day, because when it comes to protecting the planet, every little helps. (Unless, of course, the Vogons really do want to build a new hyperspace bypass…)