By: Denali Selent
Today, April 22, 2020, marks 50 years since millions of frustrated Americans took to the streets to raise awareness for dire environmental crises plaguing the country. Decades of industrial expansion were beginning to have serious impacts on the planet, and many were fed up with the lack of awareness and political action regarding the subject. The protests were a huge success, which led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, numerous national laws and policies and a better public consciousness of environmental issues.
Half a century later, it seems our situation has become more dire. New studies, articles and media coverage about environmental degradation often outweigh the good news, making it easy to feel defeated and powerless when it comes to making a difference on our planet. However, amid all the harrowing tales are some hidden gems of the really great things happening for the Earth. The spark and inspiration that drove people to the streets in 1970 is alive in millions of people around the globe, with real tangible changes being made daily. And when we all come together as changemakers, young and old, a sustainable, just future could be closer than we think.
So in honor of this Earth Day, Earth Day 1970 and all those in between, here are 5 great things happening in regards to environmental justice in recent years. These serve not only as a reminder of progress that has been made, but as motivation for change in the future.
1. The Climate Mobilization Act passed in NYC.
In April 2019, legislators in New York City passed the Climate Mobilization Act, described as “the most ambitious energy efficiency legislation in the country.” The Act features seven separate bills which outline ways the city will be actively working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and expand use of renewable energy sources. The city is aiming for carbon neutrality by 2050 and simultaneously forging a trail for other cities to follow behind.
2. The U.S. made a great step towards protecting our national parks.
Last March, the John D. Dingell Jr. Conservation, Management and Recreation Act was passed! The Act is the culmination of many individual bills which seek to protect and expand conservation of land and natural resources, including many of our beloved national parks. Additionally, the Act helped establish a program to encourage kids around the country to spend more time outdoors.
3. Animals like the giant panda, gray wolf, Steller sea lion and more have made their way off of the Endangered Species List.
While the Endangered Species List is frighteningly large, that doesn’t mean there haven’t been success stories. These are just a few examples of the species which, through conservation efforts, are no longer classified as endangered!
4. The European Parliament voted to ban many single-use plastic items.
It has been just over a year since the E.U. made the decision to gradually phase out most single-use plastics. While the ban was unprecedented in magnitude, many cities and countries around the world have taken their own actions to reduce plastic pollution. One example was in 2010 when California pioneered a ban on plastic grocery bags. More recently in January, 2020, China joined the fight by announcing they too would be terminating the production and sale of many common plastic items.
5. A wave of young environmentalists around the world is emerging.
Many are familiar with Greta Thunberg, a young Swedish activist behind the FridaysForFuture movement. What began as Greta missing school on Fridays in order to strike for climate justice has transcribed into an international movement, with millions of people, particularly children, partaking.
And the list doesn’t stop here! Pausing to reflect on some of the positive change being made across the globe is not only motivating, but a great reminder of the power of humanity when we work together. Happy Earth Day, GreenHawks!
Cover photo courtesy of Pixabay