By: Michal Shvimer
Happy Earth Day, everyone. This day is dedicated to what we often take for granted: our natural resources, many of which are nonrenewable; our wildlife, many of which are becoming increasingly endangered; and our natural landmarks, many of which require federal protection to maintain.
With the rise of social media, many take to Instagram or Twitter to post a picture of their favorite view or coolest vacation into the wild. The problem surrounding this phenomenon is twofold — firstly, it defines the value of nature in its connection to humankind, and secondly, it emphasizes that the value of nature is in its beauty rather than in its inherent presence.
Yes, humans rely on nature, but nature does not rely on us. In fact, our presence on Earth has had negative impacts on the planet. And as the quality of our air and water decrease, so does/will the general quality of our lives. Natural disasters caused by climate change, from an increase in the frequency and severity of hurricanes to wildfires, have destroyed people’s homes and crippled economies.
If there is anything most — or even all — of us can agree on, it is that nature is beautiful. But that’s not why we should love it. Our bodies of water are beautiful, but the life forms within them are suffering from coral reef destruction, oil spills, water pollution and whaling.
Our shores boast tremendous mountains and rolling hills, but their heights decrease slowly each year as sea levels rise. Our breathtaking sunrises and sunsets are literally taking our breath, as air pollution fogs our blue skies and clogs children’s lungs, contributing to the increase of asthma cases worldwide.
Something that many of us forget is that this Earth doesn’t exist for us or because of us. Modern humans have been around for only 200,000 years of the Earth’s 4.5 billion-year lifespan. The sun is only about halfway through its lifespan, so despite popular belief, we should be more afraid of our own planet’s demise rather than the sun’s.
We are running out of Earth Days. Here’s what we can do to help.
Expose the ugly
Like I said, we all know the Earth is beautiful. But what a lot of us don’t know — or at least, don’t see — is how the world is suffering from the effects of climate change. If people appreciate nature’s beauty, show them how it is threatened. If people prioritize humanity over nature, show them how the two are connected.
If people are taking to social media for Earth Day, make it count. Don’t post about how much you love the Earth, post about how much we need the Earth — how much the Earth needs us. Show the devastating effects of pollution in the global south (developing countries), show how much trash is dumped into our oceans.
Show us why we should help the Earth, not just why we should appreciate it, because our appreciation is superficial if we’re not taking steps to address the issue.
Walk your talk
When we show why we should help, we’re going to want to step up. In order to do so, we need to know how. And if you’re going to post about how much you love the Earth in the first place, you should be taking whatever steps (as you’re able and willing) to help out.
The tragedy of the commons suggest that individuals will act based on their self-interest rather than in the interest of the collective. Right now, our collective really demands we take responsibility over our actions and how much impact they can have over time. There are so many ways we can reduce our carbon footprint, which you can learn more about here.
Here are 35 easy steps you can take. Do what makes sense for your lifestyle, and share these methods with others.
Support environmental policies
Personal lifestyle adjustments will do more than you could fathom, but let’s think even bigger. 2019 has been the biggest year for climate change in politics. The presidential candidates in the 2020 race are being asked where they stand on the Green New Deal, a proposal put forth back in February, but that has yet to be approved on the Senate floor.
The Green New Deal wants to transition to 100 percent renewable, zero-emission energy sources by the year 2030, stimulating job creation and providing high-quality health care. It’s an ambitious and necessary policy that deserves everyone’s support. If you love the environment, you should love the Green New Deal.
So call your representatives, send petitions to senators, vote for supporters of the Green New Deal. Volunteer for your local park and beach clean-up and then volunteer for the Sunrise Movement, a youth movement that is mobilizing around the Green New Deal.
And BU, our own university has not divested its holdings from fossil fuel companies. This means BU invests private money into big-oil companies. DivestBU has been working for seven years to change that, and maybe you can get involved. Non-BU students, divestment is a nationwide movement, so you can get involved at your respective universities.
Take the power of media and use it to your advantage. Tell people the Earth needs help, show them why, show them how, take the small steps in your personal life and then take the big steps in your communities before we run out of Earth Days.