Every year, Earth Day offers people around the world a chance to focus on the planet and the challenges facing it. And from plastic pollution to biodiversity collapse to the climate crisis, there’s no shortage of issues to tackle.
This global environmental holiday, which occurs every year on 22 April, is celebrated by an estimated 1 billion people, per EarthDay.org – from schoolkids to heads of state. The day is meant to serve both as a reminder of the threats to our planet and a chance to appreciate everything the Earth offers.
Here’s what you need to know about the day’s history and how to participate.
When is Earth Day?
This year, and every year, Earth Day is on 22 April.
In recent years, Earth Day celebrations have stretched out over the entire week containing Earth Day, and even the entire month of April. EarthDay.org lists a variety of events — both online and in-person around the world — taking place across the entire month.
What is Earth Day about?
Earth Day is a global annual event intended to prompt discussion and action around environmental causes.
This year’s theme is “Invest In Our Planet”, encouraging individuals, businesses and governments to invest in technologies and practices that can benefit the Earth.
In 2022, Earth Day comes after the release of the latest IPCC reports showing that the world is barrelling towards stronger, more frequent disastersfuelled by the climate crisis, with little time to reverse course.
What’s the history of Earth Day?
According to EarthDay.org, the initial idea for Earth Day came on the heels of a 1969 oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara, California. In response to that disaster, they say, US Senator Gaylord Nelson wanted to catalyse environmental activism along the lines of the movement opposing the Vietnam War.
Those organising efforts led to the first Earth Day in 1970 — which saw 20 million people across the US participating — around 10 per cent of the country’s population at the time, reports EarthDay.org.
Within a year, the organisation points out, US President Richard Nixon had created the Environmental Protection Agency — a new branch of the federal government. The first Earth Day also preceded a wave of environmental legislation passed in the US in the early 1970s, including the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act and Endangered Species Act, they note.
Earth Day became an international campaign in 1990, according to the organisation, spreading to 141 countries, and by 2000, the annual event had reached nearly every corner of the globe.
In recent years, the day has become something of a yearly milestone for the global environmental movement. In 2016, the historic Paris Agreement started gathering signatory countries on Earth Day, for example. The international pact aims to limit global warming to “well below” 2C above pre-industrial levels.
What will Earth Day 2022 look like?
Earth Day in 2022 will feature events hosted around the world. EarthDay.org has a list of events taking place this month, both in-person and online, as well as a variety of suggestions for ways to get involved.
Local governments and organisations are also planning their own events. For example, New York City is closing off streets on the Saturday following Earth Day to get people walking and biking in the city. And in St. Louis, Missouri, people can go to the Earth Day Festival on 23 and 24 April. In addition, all across the United States, the National Parks Service is hosting both in-person and virtual events to mark “National Parks Week,” which coincides with Earth Day on Friday.
Some political leaders will also mark the day, such as US President Biden, who will be in Seattle, Washington to speak about clean energy, according to the Seattle Times.
It may be worth looking at your local newspapers and city governments, as well as institutions like libraries, museums and parks to see what’s happening near you. In addition, people can always plan their own ways of celebrating Earth Day — and EarthDay.org has a list of recommendations, including everything from picking up trash to educating yourself about environmental issues to lobbying members of government for more system-wide change.