Today is Earth Day, the 45th anniversary of this vitally important occasion. Some of us might wonder about the usefulness of having ‘special days’, often fearing that too many of these events – which are supposed to help raise awareness of an urgent issue - might be lost in the huge number of other events and different claims and therefore be counter-productive.
However, this special day offers us a good opportunity to pause for a second and reflect upon the current state of the only planet we have and on which we are entirely dependent.
Did you know for example that each single day, 200,000 people are moving to cities from environments that no longer support them? That more than 6 billion kilograms of trash and 8 million tons of plastic are dumped in the ocean every year?
Our natural environment is becoming more and more vulnerable. Today, rainforests are being cut down at the rate of 100 acres per minute. Our soil is equally in danger. Indeed, it takes several thousand years to build a thin layer of fertile topsoil, but only an hour of heavy rain to lose it…
Regarding pollution, it is worth remembering that it is one of the biggest global killers, affecting over 100 million people. This is comparable to malaria and HIV! Let’s not forget that in Europe’s urban areas, over 90% of the population is exposed to levels of pollution which are above the WHO guidelines from 2005…
Last but not least important is the fact that March this year was the hottest on global record since 1880. Worldwide, 2001-2010 was the warmest decade on record since thermometer-based observations began…
However, although the evidence is far from positive, this does not mean that nothing can be changed nor improved. Across the globe, more and more people are aware of the fact that the way we have treated our natural resources until now can simply not continue. In every corner of our planet, inventors, scientists, academics, citizens are reflecting upon and inventing new way of living in such a way so that we finally manage to live in harmony with our planet, this without putting each other’s lives or security in danger.
Take recycling as an example. Did you know that 84% of all household waste can be recycled? And that every ton of paper that is recycled saves 17 trees, 2 barrels of oil, 4,100 kilowatts of energy, 3.2 cubic yards of landfill space and 60 pounds of air pollution? That energy savings not only helps reduce energy bills but that it can also create jobs and growth? In the EU alone, up to 2 million jobs could be created in the area of energy efficiency measures by 2020 and possibly another 2 million jobs by 2030!
On Friday 17th April the G7 countries (the UK, US, Canada, France, Italy, Japan, and Germany) acknowledged that climate change is "among the most serious" security threats facing the world and that it must be integrated into foreign policy. They also reiterated their support for a strong climate deal to be agreed at UN talks – COP21 in Paris at the end of this year.
The Greens will follow up on this to ensure that all these countries abandon their support of fossil fuels and support renewable energy sources. They will continue pushing so that this awareness increases and that political decisions are increasingly aligned with these objectives.
This year the theme of this special day is: ‘It is our turn to lead’. The Greens/EFA group, together with the greens across Europe and in the world, therefore encourages all citizens to join the movement to show governments that concrete progress is urgently needed to protect our environmental resources and our climate.