Earth Day: Protecting Our Home Planet
On April 22, the world celebrates Earth Day. This symbolic birthday of our planet serves an important mission – to promote living in harmony with nature.
History of the event
The first Earth Day was held in 1970 in the US by Senator Gaylord Nelson. It turned into a nationwide demonstration for environmental awareness. Later that year, the Environmental Protection Agency was created too. The movement has grown rapidly, and nowadays, as the official Earth Day Network declares, about 1 billion people participate in Earth Day annually.
Likewise, in 1972, the United Nations conducted the Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm. That started an age of global awareness. Coincidentally or not, the General Assembly designated April 22 as International Mother Earth Day in 2009. Mother Earth Day implies that various nations commonly call the Earth their “mother”, and we all must care about our common home and be grateful to it. Both events now are aimed to confront climate change and inspire people to be environmentally friendly.
How does space science fight climate change?
Every day is Earth Day if you look at it from space. It becomes vivid that humans are an infinitesimal part of the Universe, and our Earth is a fragile spaceship that we must protect. After all, seeing the Earth from above helps to better understand its issues.
Space science contributes a lot to preventing and solving climate changes. For example, the Landsat missions flown by NASA in cooperation with the United States Geological Survey examine the condition of the Earth’s forests. The data they collect on the Amazon rainforest helps to explore the causes and effects of a fire season and send deforestation alerts. Another NASA mission, the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership mission (Suomi NPP) also tracks thermal anomalies. Moreover, it monitors changes to global ice cover, the health of the ozone layer, air pollution, and other Earth conditions.
The European Union’s Copernicus Sentinels launched by the European Space Agency also collect data on the Earth’s health. They measure the behavior of the oceans, lands, and atmosphere and give an emergency management overview to predict earthquakes and tornadoes. Even dense marine plastic accumulations can be detected from above – as proved by Copernicus Sentinel-2, whose data is now used for that purpose. And these are indeed not the only examples of how space science helps us protect the Earth. Green technologies developed for space missions also serve for everyday life, like reusable water bottles with built-in filters or flexible solar panels. Dozens of satellites in orbit along with astronauts on the International Space Station study the Earth from above, while scientists analyze the records and propose solutions. Although even the provided scientific data wouldn’t help without public engagement.
How can we all contribute?
You don’t need to be an astronaut or scientist to celebrate Earth Day by taking action. Here is a list of activities you can begin on Earth Day and continue on an everyday basis:
- Pick up trash while you’re walking;
- Turn off lights when not in use;
- Limit your water usage;
- Plant a tree or donate to a reforestation project;
- Switch to e-books;
- Choose plant-based meals;
- Use a reusable water bottle;
- Buy glass or paper products;
- Use environmentally friendly cleaning products;
- Switch to reusable bags;
- Volunteer on ecological projects.
Bottom line: Earth Day’s mission is to remind us that nature and humankind are inseparably connected. “When we see the Earth from space we see ourselves as a whole… one planet, one human race” – such an Earth Day message was delivered by ESA and The Stephen Hawking Foundation on April 22, 2020. All of us across the globe are connected by our Mother Planet Earth. And we all can make an effort to make it a better place to live. So, let’s do it!