On April 22, countries around the world will gather together to celebrate the Earth in one of the most historic environmental events of the year: Earth Day.
Founded by former U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin, the first Earth Day took place in 1970 and was originally intended as a collective environmental protest “to shake up the political establishment and force the issue onto the national agenda.”
Today, the celebration of Earth Day is primarily aimed at raising awareness and encouraging everyday citizens around the world to do their part in preserving the Earth, from recycling to reducing one’s carbon footprint.
Celebrations of Earth Day are as diverse as the cultures themselves. The real beauty of this holiday, however, is the sheer range of events that take place in every country.
Here are a couple of highlights to watch out for, both big and small.
(And if you can’t make it to any of these events, check out Earth911’s Twitter Contest – you can play from anywhere in the U.S. and have the chance to win some cool, green prizes!)
Students in Bangkok raise recycling awareness
A community of students in Bangkok are teaching adults the importance of measuring one’s carbon footprint. Sangam Malani, a student at KIS International School in Bangkok, decided to form an Environmental Committee, which would sell cloth bags, recycled plastics and reusable water bottles at his school fair.
Together, the students formed their own booth and promised to donate 100 Baht from whatever they made to an organization called “Bring the Elephant Home,” which aims to restore the natural habitat of elephants by planting more trees.
“We were selling the bags smartly. However, as the day wore on, the customers began to ignore us,” Malani says. “I realized that many of our customers didn’t understand what we meant when we talked about carbon footprint. And at the end of the day, when I found out that we failed to break even, I noted that next time we would use simpler phrases to get our message across.”
This initial setback did not deter Malani and his Environmental Committee from doing more good work for his community. Shortly after the school fair, the Environmental Committee placed new recycling bins around campus to encourage students to recycle their plastics. Malani adds, “Despite setbacks, what we did was that we made an effort to recycle.”
General Motors to release revolutionary electric car
General Motors, the largest automobile manufacturer in the United States, is planning on releasing an electric car that practically screams eco-friendly.
Proving that going green oftentimes just takes a little creativity and resourcefulness, the Chevy Volt uses recycled blue jeans in its car doors to buffer noise and recycled cardboard in its roof to improve acoustics. Even the door handle brackets are made from old carpet.
The Volt may just be the dream car we have all been waiting for, especially as consumers will be able to save an average of 500 gallons of gasoline per year.
The Volt will also use only 2,520 kilowatts per hour of energy, which is less than a central air conditioning unit, a water heater and a refrigerator.
Because 80 percent of U.S. drivers commute 40 miles or less on a daily basis, the Volt is designed to have a battery power of up to 40 miles without using gasoline.
In addition to the Chevrolet Volt, GM now hosts 55 facilities that are landfill-free, meaning that absolutely no production waste or garbage from these factories can be traced to a landfill. These landfill-free facilities recycle or reuse more than 95 percent of all waste, while the remaining 5 percent are usually converted to energy.
The Climate Rally at the National Mall
The growing dependence on Middle Eastern oil and the lack of a major climate bill are only two of the many environmental problems existing in this country. This is why the Earth Day Network is organizing a climate rally at The National Mall in an effort to encourage Congress to pass effective clean energy and climate legislation in 2010.
The climate rally is the highlight of the Earth Day Network’s nine-day festival at the National Mall, and will feature live music from stars like Sting, The Roots, Passion Pit, John Legend, Bob Weir and Booker T.
Other media figures, including film director James Cameron, Reverend Jesse Jackson, author Margaret Atwood and Olympian Billy Demong will be speaking on the necessity for change on both a national and international scale in the fields of clean energy and global warming.
Artist explores global warming in the Arctic
Sebastian Copeland, an art ambassador of Earth Day Network, is taking a photographic journey into the Arctic where he will witness in person the effect that global warming has had on the poles.
The Arctic, which receives the smallest amount of sunlight on Earth, should technically be the coldest habitat on Earth. However, due to rising temperatures and melting glaciers, the poles are now warming twice as quickly as the rest of the Earth.
Copeland says on his blog, “As one of the great climate regulators in the Northern hemisphere, vast ice losses in the North threaten the thin balance of its ecosystem, in place for hundreds of thousands of years, and spells trouble for the world.”
Copeland’s photographic expedition will take him across Greenland, where he will capture the disappearing glaciers and the wildlife that exists in the Arctic.
London hosts the Green I.T. Awards
To reward the efforts of green distributors, suppliers and companies, Green I.T. Magazine will be hosting the annual Green I.T. Awards on Earth Day. The ceremony seeks to highlight and honor organizations and projects that have changed the face of the I.T. industry’s environmental performance.
The Green I.T. Awards is historically significant because it comes at a time when individuals and governments are putting more pressure than ever on corporations to take responsibility for their waste and impact on the environment.
Several notable figures will be in attendance at the ceremony, including the Right Honorable Lord Hunt OBE, representatives of Climate Change and the Minister of Energy from the Department of Energy.
Winners, ranging from vendors to nonprofit organizations to distributors, will be announced at the London Zoo in Regents Park in honor of Earth Day and the growing eco-friendly I.T. sector.
Jane Goodall Institute teaches carbon footprint to students in China
On Earth Day, the Jane Goodall Institute in China will be teaching students and instructors in the city of Beijing how to reduce their carbon footprint by switching from conventional tissue paper to handkerchiefs.
Their lesson plan will include games featuring a traditional handkerchief song and dance and a fun lecture on low-carbon treasures and fashion.
The focus of the lesson is to encourage as many students as possible in Beijing to make the easy transition from wasting boxes upon boxes of tissue paper to reusing handkerchiefs. At the end of the lesson, students will sign a large banner declaring their support for the environment and understand that living a low-carbon life “starts right under [their] noses” from all the small changes they can make in their everyday lifestyles.
Artist highlights ‘What is Missing’ on Earth
Can you imagine that every 20 minutes a living plant or animal species disappears forever from the face of the Earth? Or that at this rate, as much as 30 percent of all the Earth’s living flora and fauna will be headed for extinction in just a century’s time?
According to artist Maya Lin, this is a nightmare that may very well come true if we fail to recognize the threat we pose to ecosystems around the globe.
To raise awareness of the Earth’s diminishing biodiversity, Maya Lin created “What is Missing?”, a Web site scheduled to launch on Earth Day that will compile photographs, videos and information from her various art exhibitions.
All of her sculptures share an environmental theme that serve collectively as a digital memorial to the species and habitats we have already lost.
These installations range from the Listening Cone, a permanent sculpture that contains sound and text, to a billboard video featuring a five-minute movie that shows images of extinct and endangered species.
The billboard video will be broadcast in cities across the world on Earth Day, and has already won a highly coveted position on MTV’s billboard in Times Square.
Perhaps the most haunting of Lin’s exhibitions is a creation she calls The Empty Room, which is a traveling show where visitors will actually be able to catch and hold onto projected images drifting in mid-air. Species featured range from songbirds to whales, while each panel will include information that viewers can read.