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Monday, July 15, 2024

Earth Day 2024 highlights global bid to combat plastic pollution

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Every year on April 22, Earth Day reminds us of our roles as stewards responsible for protecting the planet we call home. This year, the theme rings particularly clear: “Planet vs. Plastics.” Plastic pollution has become a critical environmental issue, demanding immediate and collective action.

It began in 1970 and paved the way for the modern environmental movement. During its first leg, about 20 million people from across the United States of America attended inaugural events across numerous sites, including schools, universities, and other communities.

How it all began

The deteriorating environment quality alarmed former US Senator and Wisconsin Governor Gaylord Nelson. He was among those who witnessed the effects of the Santa Barbara, California, oil spill in 1969. The student anti-war movement inspired him to combine its energy with an emerging public consciousness about pollution.

Nelson presented the teach-in on college campuses idea to the national media, later convincing Republican Congressman Pete McCloskey to co-chair the initiative. He also recruited Denis Hayes, a young activist, to organize the campus teach-ins and to scale the idea to a broader public. They chose April 22 to maximize student participation.

Hayes also took the event to new heights by assembling an 85-person national staff to promote events nationwide after realizing its potential to inspire all Americans. Eventually, the effort expanded to include a variety of organizations, faith groups, and other associations.

They renamed it Earth Day, which gained nationwide traction immediately and garnered national media attention. Twenty million Americans, or 10 percent of the country’s total population at the time, were inspired by Earth Day to protest against the effects of 150 years of industrial development, which had left a growing legacy of grave consequences for human health, by taking to the streets, parks, and theaters.

As 1990 drew near, environmental leaders approached Hayes to spearhead yet another significant campaign for the environment. It’s when Earth Day went global, inspiring 200 million people across 141 nations and bringing environmental concerns to the fore. Earth Day in 1990 accelerated recycling efforts across the globe and paved the way for the Rio de Janeiro United Nations Earth Summit in 1992.

Earth Day continues to build upon the work and legacy of its founders. The organization continues to create a historic movement as citizens of the world by partnering with thousands of partners globally for a united call for creativity, innovation, ambition, and bravery to meet our climate crisis and seize the enormous opportunities of a zero-carbon future.

Focusing on ‘Planet vs. Plastic’

The widespread presence of plastic is staggering. Plastic has infiltrated our community’s various sectors, from single-use bags and straws to microplastics lurking in our oceans and food chain. Although designed for convenience, the synthetic material often takes centuries to decompose, leaving a legacy of environmental damage.

Our oceans bear the brunt of this issue. Marine animals become entangled in plastic debris or mistake it for food, leading to injuries, starvation, and even death. Plastic waste disrupts entire ecosystems, threatening biodiversity and the health of our oceans.

Beyond the immediate threat to wildlife, plastic pollution poses a significant risk to human health. Microplastics, tiny fragments of plastic less than 5 millimeters in size, have been found in our food and water, raising concerns about their potential impact on our bodies. The chemicals used in plastic manufacturing can also get into our food and drinks, with unknown long-term health consequences.

The battle against plastic pollution requires a multi-pronged approach. Individual action is crucial. Making conscious choices in our daily lives can significantly reduce our plastic footprint. Opting for reusable shopping bags, water bottles, and coffee mugs are simple yet impactful steps. Supporting businesses prioritizing sustainable packaging and reducing our reliance on single-use plastics are equally important.

However, individual action alone cannot solve this systemic problem. We need strong policies and regulations to promote a circular economy for plastics by prioritizing reusable and recyclable materials, investing in innovative recycling technologies, and holding manufacturers accountable for the lifecycle of their products.

A global treaty on plastic pollution is urgently needed. This international agreement would establish binding targets for plastic reduction, promote innovation in sustainable materials, and encourage responsible waste management practices. By working together, countries can create a framework for a future where plastic pollution is a relic of the past.

The fight against plastic pollution is not just about environmental protection; it’s about safeguarding overall well-being between ourselves and the planet. By joining this critical battle, we demonstrate our commitment to a healthier, sustainable future for generations.

United in a single cause, one step at a time

Environmentally conscious and everyday Filipinos can join the collaborative effort during Earth Day, even in small ways.

One example is the well-known mantra “reduce, reuse, and recycle.” Filipinos are naturally resourceful, and Earth Day is a perfect time to embrace this spirit. Reduce single-use plastic use by choosing reusable shopping bags, water bottles, and food containers. When buying groceries, choose products with minimal packaging and avoid excessive plastic wrapping.

Many Filipino organizations work tirelessly to protect our environment. Another way to contribute to Earth Day is by volunteering your time or donating resources to these groups. Their expertise and dedication are crucial in tackling environmental challenges.

They can also talk to their family, friends, and community about the importance of environmental protection. Share information about Earth Day events and initiatives. Encourage others to adopt eco-friendly practices in their daily lives.

Exercising sustainable options in consumer behavior can also be an ideal approach. When possible, prioritize buying local produce from farmers’ markets or sustainable businesses that use eco-friendly practices and minimal packaging to support local communities, reduce the carbon footprint associated with transportation, and promote responsible product lifecycles.

Finally, Filipinos can utilize social media platforms to spread awareness about Earth Day and environmental issues. Share informative content, participate in online discussions, and encourage others to join the movement. Remember, even a simple Earth Day post can inspire others to take action.

Remember, every action, big or small, contributes to a more sustainable future for the Philippines. Let’s join hands and show the world that Filipinos are a force for positive change this Earth Day.

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