Written by Claudia Vermillion, Care Connections Specialist
"We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children."– Native American Proverb
51 years ago, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) did not exist, which meant there was no Clean Air, no Clean Water Act, and no regulatory mechanism to protect our environment. That all changed in April 1970 when Senator Gaylord Nelson created Earth Day as a way to force this issue onto the national agenda. In December 1970, Congress authorized the creation of the EPA, a new federal agency to tackle environmental issues. Now, each year on April 22, people all around the world come together on Earth Day to celebrate the planet’s environment and raise public awareness about pollution.
In 1990, Earth Day expanded to include countries and people across the globe with 220 million people in 141 nations getting involved. A decade later at the turn of the new millennium Earth Day shed light on the emerging Clean Energy movement and expanded its reach spreading to 184 countries with the help of 5000 environmental organizations.
In 2009, the United Nations General Assembly decided to designate April 22 as International Mother Earth Day. The symbol of Mother Earth serves as a common metaphor and representation of our planet in many countries and cultures.
"The earth will not continue to offer its harvest, except with faithful stewardship. We cannot say we love the land and then take steps to destroy it for use by future generations." – John Paul II. The same way early childhood education is essential to a child’s future success, environmental education during early childhood has a number of benefits on a child’s future. Children engaging with the environment through physical interactions from observing insects pollinating plants to playing in a fresh creek water can have a positive impact and teach children their place in the world and how they can protect it throughout their lifetime. Environmental education of youth ensures that we have enough scientists, advocates, entrepreneurs and citizens who value the natural wonders of the world.
Change starts with action. Better yet, an action that affects the world around you. As awful as the COVID-19 pandemic has been, the environment has improved worldwide. Mother nature “got the break” she was seeking for decades. During late January and early February 2020, levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) over cities and industrial areas in Asia and Europe were lower than in the same period in 2019 by as much as 40%. In developing countries like India and Bangladesh where domestic and industrial wastes are dumped into rives without treatment, during the lockdown period the major industrial sources of pollution shrink and in some cases completely stopped. For instance, the river Ganga and Yamuna have reached a significant level of purity due to the absence of industrial pollution.
Taking care of OUR environment isn’t hard or complicated. It is a matter of respecting and appreciating what this world has to offer. It’s easy to take breathing for granted until there is no oxygen left to breathe. Unlike your real mother, Mother Nature is easier to neglect as she doesn’t call you night and day to remind you of your shortcomings. Yet, if you pay attention to the subtle hints and messages, you’ll see that Mother Nature is also sending a strong message. If each of us do our part to help restore the planet, future generations will enjoy the beauty Mother Nature can offer. We must remember we don’t own our planet; our planet owns us. We are just a passing guest and as a guest we need to leave the planet better than how we found it.