Take a deep breath, now let it out. The air you just breathed in was probably refreshing at best, tolerable at worst. You might have noticed the onion or tuna you ate, but that was the worst of it. The next time you drink water, look at it. Is it clear? Probably. Is it colorless? Again, most likely. Is there water in your cup? Well duh.
Never before have these two things been at risk before, drinking and breathing, in the human existence time frame. With the help of globalization and a population boom, humans are having a profound effect on the world. We haven’t had to come to terms that it won’t last forever, because we’ve never had to worry about that in the past.
For the first time in human existence, carbon levels have risen above a threshold it has never crossed before. It didn’t just stop there; the current levels of carbon are sitting at 133% of that threshold. This rise in carbon is having an increased effect, often called the Greenhouse Effect. Due to this warming, there are many changes that are taking place in the world.
Professor Wallace recently gave a seminar on climate change here on campus and the effects that it has on human health. In her presentation she introduced us to some interesting points. A warmer world, even by 2 or 3 degrees Celsius shifts the mosquito habitat. More people will be exposed to mosquito borne disease and for longer times; Zika, Yellow Fever, Dengue, West Nile and the list goes on. Currently 3.6 billion are at risk for these diseases. With a temperature increase that number could rise up to 5 billion. Allergies will worsen as their window widens also. Flooding will increase, as will hurricanes and tornadoes.
Some cities have to issue warnings over smog exposure. It is estimated that of the 10 million deaths every year in China, 1 million is caused by pollutants. Exposure to all these new chemicals is wreaking havoc on our bodies and the environment. In addition to this smog exposure, there is an increasing amount of people with other respiratory problems such as asthma. In 2001, 1 in 14 people had asthma. In 2009, 1 in 12 people. That is the most recent number, although the CDC projects that as many as 1 in 10 people have asthma today.
The goal of Earth Day is to bring awareness to all these issues. It is trying to create scientifically literate people who will in turn be scientifically literate voters on environmental policies. They aim to change the direction of the world towards more green energy, jobs and technology. They hope that by 2020 a majority of the population will be able to understand the scientific literature that affects their lives and environments.
The first Earth Day was held in 1970, and attendance was well above what anyone was expecting. 20 million people, roughly 10% of the population, joined the rallies and marches. It has been one of the most effective awareness days because it is bipartisan for the most part. After that first celebration, the government felt pressured into creating the Environmental Protection Agency and the Clean Air, Clean Water and the Endangered Species Act were also created.
Here are some more facts about Earth Day and our environment.
- There is roughly 155 billion pounds of plastic in the ocean and roughly 9 billion is added every year
- We will only be able to fill 60% of the world’s water needs by 2030 without better management
- The Montreal Protocol signed in 1987 banned many chemicals that were ripping a hole in the ozone. Thanks to that act, the ozone is now healing and the hole is closing.
- A convention was held in 1997, the Convention on Biological Diversity. Here many countries around the world pledged that they would work to sustain a diverse biosphere starting in their own countries.
- The Renewable Portfolio Standard is an aggressive self- proposed bill in California that says that the state has to get half their energy from renewable sources by 2030. Many states followed, but theirs is the most ambitious.
- In 2012 the Earth Day Network planted 1 billion trees to try and bring back forested areas.