Every year on Earth Day — April 22 — people come together to raise awareness about environmental problems. And this year they will focus on accelerating the transition to a prosperous green economy.
During the event, also known as International Mother Earth Day, some 1 billion people in 190 countries take part in activities that often include planting trees, removing litter from land and water sites, and educating others about the environment.
As curtailing climate change remains at the forefront of the global environmental agenda, Earth Day this year focuses on a business aspect of that goal: investing in our planet.
More businesses need to be pulled into the effort to safeguard the planet, especially to fight climate change, according to the Washington-based nonprofit Earthday.org.
According to the Earthday.org website, “Smart companies are discovering that they no longer have the choice between going green and growing long term profits — sustainability is the path to prosperity.”
“If you want to solve climate change, follow the money, because the money is overwhelmingly moving into technological solutions, research and development, all of which are green,” Earthday.org President Kathleen Rogers told VOA in an interview.
Oil and gas companies that rely on fossil fuels are feeling the pressure.
Companies that don’t go green face a “giant risk,” Rogers cautioned, because the outcry to curb fossil fuels continues to grow.
Climate scientist Michael Mann at Pennsylvania State University agreed, saying that “the transition towards clean energy is already happening.”
“The great revolution of this century is clean energy, and those energy companies that embrace clean renewable energy are going to prosper in the long term,” he told VOA.
Rogers noted, however, that while some companies “may not be extracting oil for carbon,” they are using fossil fuels to make plastic, another environmental hazard.
Most plastic — bags, bottles, containers, etc. — is not recycled, Rogers said. Instead, it ends up taking space in landfills or floating in the oceans.
“There are devastating impacts from the use of plastic,” Rogers said. Wildlife sometimes mistake it for food, and research has shown that tiny plastic particles have been found in human blood, she added.
“Today we are as aware of the dangers of plastic as we are of climate change,” Rogers said, so it is important to find a substitute for plastic.
Earth Day comes on the heels of a United Nations climate panel report, released earlier this month, that said worldwide carbon emissions increased by 12% over the past decade. Despite that gloomy picture, it’s possible to curtail climate change if governments act now, the report said.
But many people wonder when that will happen, as many governments have stalled on the issue.
“Stop placing the burden on individuals to solve the problem, and put more of the burden where it belongs, on governments and companies,” Rogers said.
And that includes Africa, which suffers from environmental problems such as air pollution, water scarcity and the loss of biodiversity.
“Every country is facing the effects of the climate crisis” even though the continent’s global emissions only range between 2 to 3 percent, explained Derrick Mugisha, an environmental scientist and regional director in Africa for Earthday.org. African leaders must step up and “minimize excuses to reverse the trends of environmental degradation.”
“In Asia, increased global warming due to climate change can no longer be ignored,” noted Karuna Singh, Earth Day’s regional director for Asia. The changing weather patterns can cause food insecurity and loss of biodiversity and compel people to become “environmental refugees,” she said.
India, with its dependence on fossil fuels, creates some of the worst air pollution in the world, she said. And the Indian government has recognized the gloomy findings and initiated a process to have experts suggest strategies that will accelerate solutions.
For Mann, Earth Day is also a reminder that polluters who deny climate change are no longer credible.
There has been a carefully orchestrated “deflection campaign by polluters to convince us that it’s all on us,” he said. But “70% of carbon pollution comes from just 100 polluters like fossil fuel companies and oil companies,” he added.
Denis Hayes, the organizer of the first Earth Day in 1970, told VOA the event is just as viable today as it was 52 years ago.
“It’s not just about picking up litter, but finding various remedies to combat climate change, including more efficient renewable power and greener transportation methods. It’s about building a world that is livable for our children.”