The future of Earth looks incredibly grim. We need change now. Not tomorrow. Climate change is anthropogenic. Man made and only together can we fix this. Earth day should be every day
Before we had an EPA, before we had a Clean Water or Endangered Species Act, the first Earth Day was celebrated 52 years ago. Established by U.S. Senator and environmental activist Gaylord Nelson, Earth Day was the first time Americans gathered to celebrate our delicate ecosystem, as well as recognize the destructive nature of modern society. In the years since, it has become an international event involving more than 1 billion people from 193 different countries.
So what does Earth Day mean to me as a climate scientist? You’d think this date would be sacrosanct. But instead, it rings rather hollow. This is it? One goddamned day a year for the masses to remember that climate change has reached what the IPCC describes as “code red for humanity?” Climatologists and environmental activists spend every day screaming into the void, warning everyone who will listen that we are facing an irreversible climate catastrophe. But our cries for change fall on deaf ears.
We just cannot seem to get the general public to care, despite the clear signs that climate change is here, now. Wildfires, polar vortices, insane hurricane seasons, drought, and heat waves have all dramatically increased, and that’s just what is happening here in America. I could talk about how Antarctica experienced peak temperatures of more than 70˚F above average less than a month ago. I could tell you how the Keeling Curve is reporting CO2 levels at 420.58 ppm as I write this, or how we lose more than 30,000 species every year mostly due to the changing climate, but the general public has developed climate fatigue; no longer surprised by the catastrophic events caused by our rapidly changing climate. It is beyond frustrating, and incredibly heartbreaking to those of us who know exactly what we’re facing.
Every Earth Day has a theme. Some stick with you, while others fall rather flat.
I’m looking at you, 2006’s “Science and Faith.” The slogan from my childhood in the ’90s that I turn to now is “Earth Day Every Day.” No theme has been more apropos. We need to give a s**t about our environment more than one day every year. Climatologists and environmentalists like myself cannot carry this weight alone, nor can we fix it without the help and support of every nation and every human on this planet. The website for Earth Day states “Everyone accounted for, and everyone accountable”. This statement could not ring truer.
Third-world countries, especially those in the southern hemisphere, are affected by climate change more than anyone else. Climate refugees are flooding into the EU and the USA every day, yet those of us in first world countries, who are responsible for 86% of global CO2 emissions, continue to pump record amounts of greenhouse gases into our atmosphere. US power plants burned 23% more coal in 2021 than the previous year. China is on track to build 43 new coal-fired power plants in next few years. Only a small number of countries are upholding their pledge to the Paris Climate Accord.
Without immediate action from those in power, I fear we may be lost.
So, what is to be done? We have been told for years not to be alarmists about what is happening, but we can no longer hold back the truth. We are in serious trouble. There is no Planet B, and the future of Earth looks incredibly grim. We need change now. Not tomorrow. Today. This is our moment to come together and fix what we have broken, because regardless of Big Oil and right-wing propaganda, climate change is anthropogenic. Man-made. We did this. And only together can we fix this.
Earth Day needs to be every day. Be conscientious of your individual actions. Small changes by everyone over time can make a big difference. Recycle. Walk when you can or use public transportation. Eat locally sourced foods. Turn your air conditioning down. And most importantly, contact your representatives. Call your Senator, your rep in Congress, both local and federal, and tell them that you want our government to make the fight against climate change a priority. And most importantly we need to end our reliance on fossil fuels.
We can do this. We can make a difference, but we must do it together. Everyone accounted for. Everyone accountable.
Amanda Voogd has a BS in astrophysics and an MS in climate science, landing in the latter field. She works in ecosystem preservation and is a full-time climate activist. You can find her on twitter @PaleBlueMomma.