It’s hard to believe, but Wednesday, April 22, 2020 marks Earth Day’s 50th anniversary. As far as anniversaries are concerned, the 50th is definitely a milestone, often commemorated with something lasting and treasured.
Kind of ironic then that this year’s Earth Day theme is “Climate Change.” According to the Earth Day Network, this theme represents the biggest challenge to the future of humanity and the life-support systems that make our world habitable.
This year’s theme harkens back to 1970, when the first Earth Day was celebrated with an objective to spread awareness. Twenty million Americans (10% of the country’s population at the time) protested environmental ignorance and demanded protections for our planet. These demands eventually led to the passage of landmark environmental laws in the United States, including the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts. Many countries soon adopted similar laws.
As Extension agents, we are tasked with providing research-based, reasonable, and helpful information on a variety of topics that can improve people’s lives. Climate change is a divisive issue. In fact, a University of Florida IFAS Extension EDIS fact sheet called “Challenges in Communicating Climate Change to Extension Audiences” outlines the many challenges of discussing climate change with typical audiences.
|Six Americas Audience Categories||Description||You might hear|
|Alarmed||Convinced global warming is a serious and urgent threat; highly engaged; most likely to change behavior||I’m so upset and worried about the future.|
|Concerned||Convinced global warming is a serious threat; somewhat engaged; less likely to change behavior||I think this is something politicians should address|
|Cautious||Believe global warming is a problem but not a personal or urgent threat||So what is it all about?|
|Disengaged||Give little thought to global warming; change beliefs easily; not perceived as a problem for them||I have other things to think about, like how to pay the bills.|
|Doubtful||Not sure if global warming is happening||Seems like climate always changes. This is a political issue.|
|Dismissive||Firmly believe global warming is not occurring; highly engaged in preventing change in policies; very knowledgeable||It is arrogant to believe that people can change the climate. This graph shows the scientists have it wrong.|
Nonetheless, Extension agents are well-informed and desperately care for the health and welfare of their families, neighbors, and communities. Especially now, as collectively, we all are facing an uncertain future.
The coronavirus pandemic has stressed our lives right now. Everyone is grappling with change. Everyone is worried about human health. Even with everything else going on, Earth Day is a yearly reminder to exercise our collective responsibility. As one human race, we just can’t sit back and relax and hope everything turns out okay. It is going to take some work.
So instead of feeling like our time is being wasted by staying at home, perhaps we can spend this time in a positive way. I heard a news commentator recently say something along the lines of not letting this time we all have now to use us, but for us to use this time to come out better on the other end.
Like Helen Keller famously said, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” Let’s start together.
Here are some tips and resources for saving energy, money, and the environment:
Save Energy, Save Money (https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/energy-saver)
- Install a programmable thermometer
- Hang clothes to dry when you can
- Look for energy star appliances when shopping for a replacement
- Change to energy efficient light bulbs
Understand personal water consumption (https://www.epa.gov/watersense/how-we-use-water#Daily%20Life)
Say NO to plastic (https://www.epa.gov/trash-free-waters/toxicological-threats-plastic)
- Carry your own reusable bag
Eat with a conscience (http://www.floridaclimateinstitute-uf.org/)
- Eat more meatless meals
- Don’t waste food
- Cook more
Think about personal consumption (https://moneytalk1.blogspot.com/2020/03/when-things-seem-out-of-control-control.html)
- Consume less
- Waste less
- Enjoy yourself more
Support your leading environmental movements. Youth around the globe are passionate about this. They worry, and rightly so, about what is going to happen, now and in the future.