April 22, 2040. You turn on the news, and this is what you hear and see: rising temperatures are causing catastrophic droughts, water shortages, widespread famine, and civil unrest. Heat waves are becoming more intense, ice caps are melting, sea levels are rising, cities are falling underwater, which are all leading to the death and displacement of millions. You are witnessing hurricanes, wildfires, collapsing ecosystems, and countless species going extinct. This is what will happen if we simply observe climate change from a passive perspective. It’s the same as doing nothing at all.
Earth Day has become an annual event celebrated around the world on April 22. It is a day dedicated to raising awareness about environmental issues and promoting actions that can help protect our planet, so that the world on April 22, 2040, is not the same as what I just asked you to envision. But rather than simply having an Earth Day, I believe that Andover needs to have a required Earth Day On, as actively celebrating the day through education and participation is far more effective than passively celebrating it.
Passive celebration of Earth Day acknowledges the day without taking any concrete actions to protect the environment. This could include simply sharing social media posts, changing profile pictures, or talking about the importance of the environment without actually making any significant changes to your lifestyle. While these actions may raise awareness about the importance of environmental issues, they do not result in tangible changes that can have a meaningful impact on the planet. On the other hand, an active celebration of Earth Day takes real steps towards protecting the environment. This could include joining community cleanups, planting trees, reducing plastic use, or supporting environmentally-friendly policies and legislations. Active celebration is crucial because it doesn’t simply treat Earth Day as a day during which you simply go through the motions and forget about it once it is done. An Earth Day On forces everyone to be present and take responsibility in creating a sustainable future.
In order to create an Earth Day On, Andover could invite guest speakers, particularly experts in the field, to share their knowledge and their insights. We could clean up local parks, beaches, or surrounding neighborhoods. We could hold nature walks or plant trees and gardens. Since art can also be a powerful tool for illustrating the gravity of our climate situation, art students could work on projects that convey the emotions that they feel when they think about climate change. It is when these feelings are brought to the surface that people truly understand how pivotal their role is to a cause that affects their world and themselves. I know Andover does participate in some of these programs, but none of them are mandatory, which means that only people who already care about the planet take part in them, and those who do not, don’t. To be fair, required meetings have never been very enticing to me. But sometimes such pushes have the power to drastically change people’s ways of thinking.
The effects of climate change are not going to be eradicated by acknowledging that it occurs. That is the first step, but because of how far the damage has progressed, simple awareness is not as consequential as it may have been before. Climate change is already having severe impacts on our planet, as I outlined at the start. To address this issue, we need to take urgent and noteworthy action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This means active and consistent changes. Active celebration of Earth Day through Earth Day On can help to push for these changes by building momentum, reinforcing a sense of urgency, and reminding people that though they may only be one person, their eco-friendly habits can create change on a larger scale.
Earth Day On will also foster a sense of community, collective action, and a bit of healthy guilt. I know guilt is not a sustainable motivator, but it is a powerful one that can inspire people to make a change in their carbon footprint for the better. That could look like making sure to turn off the lights and unplugging your cords before you leave your room for the day, or making slight modifications to your diet. Though I would not encourage anyone to do anything based on guilt, right now, any change is a positive one. My hope is that after seeing peers push for policy change and address a problem that should have been addressed a long time ago, that guilt will one day turn into a robust and well-informed reason to care about the planet.
While any form of celebration of Earth Day is better than none, we no longer have the time to passively celebrate Earth Day and inaccurately claim that that is truly doing something for our planet. Earth Day On will force people to make real changes in their lives, push for policy implementation, and foster a sense of community. That is what will keep the Earth alive, even if it’s only for a little while longer.
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