A global event with participants from many countries, Earth Day (April 22) is an opportunity for all of us to not only recognize the beauty of our planet, but also to inspire in ourselves and others the need to become more environmentally conscious.
As Canadians, we are fortunate to live in a country that is full of amazing natural wonders. But in order to maintain our planet, we must recognize the global problems we are facing.
A report from the UN entitled Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability, describes how climate change is affecting our society. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, “Observed impacts of climate change have already affected agriculture, human health, ecosystems on land and in the oceans, water supplies, and some people’s livelihoods. The striking feature of observed impacts is that they are occurring from the tropics to the poles, from small islands to large continents, and from the wealthiest countries to the poorest.”
The magnitude of climate change is clear.
The responsibility to protect our planet is in our hands. Collectively, the actions we take, either, positively or negatively, affect the future of Mother Earth.
As humans, we have achieved great successes. Our astronauts landed on the moon, and we are now in the process of exploring other planets. While our achievements and current space expeditions are certainly impressive and praiseworthy, they should be even greater motivation for us to protect our own wonderful planet.
If we have the technologies and willpower to go out into space, we can certainly gather the strength and ambition to solve the environmental problems that we face here.
Furthermore, environmental issues affect not only the environment, but also social justice and human rights. Many individuals and communities around the world suffer when the rule of law is not respected and their rights are infringed upon. Certain unethical resource-development projects fail to consider both human rights and environmental concerns of the populations they impact.
While Earth Day is a time of celebration, it is also a time for us to reflect on the sad realities of the environmental and social injustices that exist today. It is not uncommon, for instance, for environmental and social activists to have their lives threatened or for them to be killed in some developing countries.
Individuals should have the freedom to openly voice their opposition to extraction projects they feel do not belong in their communities.
Earth Day should be a time for us to realize that environmental stewardship is intertwined with civil liberties and human rights.
While political leaders must take major action to help solve and prevent environmental and climate change problems, we, as citizens of this planet, must also take greater responsibility. Small actions that we take in order to be more sustainable can have a far-reaching positive impact.
The following government website lists 10 main action points we can implement in our lives to help reduce climate change: bit.ly/1pemdJE
These include alternative transportation means, awareness of our water usage, the importance of recycling, and other helpful steps.
Standing up for the environment is also about recognizing human rights. Taking personal steps to reduce our impact is important, but equally important is advocating for those whose lives are at risk.
Japreet Lehal is a student at Simon Fraser University Surrey. He writes regularly for The Leader.