This year, Earth Day’s theme is #InvestInOurPlanet — something, it seems to us, that gardeners do every day of the year, with our actions, general stewardship of the land we work, and recognition of the gifts that the green things in our lives give us.
Anyone who spends time with their hands in the soil feels a deep connection to the earth. Here’s to Earth Day, when we can all feel even more connected to each other in our community of gardeners, garden enthusiasts, flower fans and plant lovers.
What is Earth Day?
For more than 50 years, Earth Day — April 22 (this Friday) has been a day when countries around the world unite to honour the Earth, engage in environmental activism and give voice to environmental concerns. Every year on April 22, events, protests and Earth Day activities take place in more than 190 countries.
A little Earth Day history
In 1970, Earth Day gave voice to an emerging environmental consciousness, one that had begun to take shape with the 1962 publication of Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring.
Planning began in 1969. Motivated after a devastating oil spill in Santa Barbara, California, Gaylor Nelson, a US Senator from Wisconsin, thought to harness the energetic force of the anti-war movement prevalent at the time on university campuses to act for the planet.
The date April 22 was chosen, as it fell on a day between spring break and final exams at colleges and universities, and Earth Day was born, initially as a ‘teach-in’ on campuses in the United States.
By the time Earth Day rolled around in April 1970, 20 million Americans were inspired to take part, “to demonstrate against the impacts of 150 years of industrial development which had left a growing legacy of serious human health impacts.” 1
Earth Day in the 90s and 2000s
By 1990, Earth Day had become a global movement, with 141 countries and more than 200 million people taking part, mobilizing recycling and cleanup efforts, and raising awareness of environmental concerns.
At the turn of the century, in 2000, more than 5,000 environmental groups and 184 countries honoured Earth Day and raised their voices in aid of the earth.
By 2010, the Earth Day movement had begun to face considerable challenges, in the form of “climate change deniers, well-funded oil lobbyists, reticent politicians, a disinterested public, and a divided environmental community” 2
Earth Day today
Thanks in no small part to young activists staging school strikes for the climate and raising their frustrated voices about their concerns for a sustainable future, in the 2020s there has been a powerful resurgence in recognition of the importance of cleaning up our collective environmental act. Global warming and greenhouse gas emissions have been raised as points of critical concern by the IPCC, and environmental legislation is being put into place in many countries.
Earth Day is now marked by more than a billion people in the world. According to earthday.org, it’s “widely recognized as the largest secular observance in the world”.
5 things you can do to make a difference on Earth Day
There are many things you can do on April 22 and every day to help our glorious globe. Here are five suggestions for actions you can take right away to celebrate Earth Day:
- Raise your voice: write to your local and national representatives to take action on climate change.
- Moderate your car use: If you commute, can you combine errands with your daily drive? Is it possible to take transit more often, or walk or ride a bike? Even one less trip you take in a car will make a difference.
- Limit or eliminate single use plastic — this is a tough one, because it’s everywhere — but even being more mindful at the grocery store with your purchases can help. One easy thing to do is to bring your own produce bags and reusable shopping bags.
- Eat plant-based meals more often and don’t waste food. (Here’s a good resource about how to eat for the climate.) If you grow your own food (and we know so many of you do), you are already doing a huge amount to help the planet, since on average, a meal travels 1,200 km from farm or field to your plate.
- Resist the allure of fast fashion. The textile industry accounts for approximately 5% of global emissions and while change is happening in the industry, you can help by: buying clothes that last; finding sustainable producers; trading or swapping clothes with friends and family; buying secondhand; or by ‘shopping your closet’ (you might be surprised by what you have that you’d forgotten was in there!).
Three resources for more earth-friendly ideas
Earthday.org’s A Billion Acts of Green offers ways you can act on an individual level as well as at a wider scope.
David Suzuki Foundation’s Top 10 Ways You Can Stop Climate Change is a great, highly readable resource, with guides you can download and links to other sources for more information.
BBC’s Smart Guide to Climate Change offers a host of articles on topics ranging from “Why we need to walk more” to “The surprising cost of being online” — it’s a terrific collection of helpful information.
Here’s to Earth Day. Let’s share a heartfelt celebration of our precious planet.