Earth Day - celebrating our planet
Earth Day was started in 1970 to celebrate the earth and fight climate change through diversification, education and action. This year, earthday.org will be holding environmental summits from 20th - 22nd April where world climate leaders, influencers and industry leaders are brought together and fight for the future of our climate.
Earthday.org works through bold, creative and innovative solutions - they’re an organisation we can look up to. They believe that we need to hold the world’s environmentally costly companies accountable for their actions. But as well as understanding the largest global companies need to change, they also believe in the power of the individual. We are all voters, consumers, community members; we can unite for change:
‘Don’t underestimate your power. When your voice and your actions are united with thousands or millions of others around the world, we create a movement that is inclusive, impactful, and impossible to ignore.’ -www.earthday.org/about-us/
Celebrating ecosystems from all corners of the world...
The beauty of our earth is that it is made up of so many different ecosystems. These are areas where plants, animals and other organisms work together along with the weather and landscape to balance harmoniously. Each living and non living thing has a vital part to play. If one aspect changes, then this has a knock-on effect that alters everything in the ecosystem. So a small change in temperature affects the plants that grow, and in turn changes the population of herbivorous animals that depend on it. This then affects the whole food chain.
To celebrate Earth Day, we wanted to highlight the most influential ecosystems in the fight for climate change that are at the brink of danger because of human interaction.
Rainforests are the oldest ecosystem on earth and the most biodiverse. They provide the freshwater we drink and are home to many indigenous people and more species of wildlife than anywhere on the planet. It is estimated that they are home to half of the world’s plants and animals. But protecting the rainforests is not only essential for those living within it, but the whole world. Their absorption of Co2 keeps the earth’s climate stabilised.
Devastatingly, the forest's ability to absorb co2 is decreasing. At its peak in the 1990s, rainforests absorbed 48 billion tonnes of Co2 from the atmosphere. This was 17% of what human activities produced. In 2020, this figure was just 6%.
Sadly, 17 percent of the Amazonian rainforest has been destroyed over the past 50 years, affecting the rates of Co2 absorption. When trees become dry because of rising temperatures they lose their ability to effectively offset our emissions. This, combined with the loss of trees due to logging, burning or animal agriculture means that our rainforests are becoming vulnerable and losing their ability to fight against climate change.
Oceans cover 70% of the world’s surface. 97% of the water on earth is in the ocean. 2% is frozen in ice caps. Oceans regulate temperature and drive our weather. Our rainfall, droughts and floods are all determined by the oceans. Not only this, but they hold a vital part to play in the levels of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. Oceans produce more than 50% of the world’s oxygen and absorb 50x more CO2 than our atmosphere does.
Because of global warming and irresponsible fishing, the oceans are under threat. Sea levels rising means coastal areas are in danger. Pollution and pesticides result in oxygen depletion, killing marine life. Invasive species like poisonous algae, cholera, and other plants and animals enter the ocean and disrupt the ecological balance. Trawling and overfishing has led to seabeds being ripped out and species becoming rapidly extinct, which drastically alters the balance of our marine lifes ecosystem. This means that native plants like seagrass are under threat and need to be protected, for nature to work in harmony.
An example of this is the seagrass at the bottom of the ocean floor. Seagrass stores carbon 7 x faster than the rainforests, but saving the sea plants often takes a back seat when it comes to the discourse around afforestation. They also provide habitat for marine life, helping the oceans’ lifecycle. 30% of seagrass has died in the last 50 years, which not only drastically alters the levels of Co2 in the oceans, but also the animals that feed off the seagrass. Oceanic plant destruction needs to stop - we cannot let the marine animals that are so often neglected, die out. Not just for their sake, but for the future of the planet.
Ice caps and the ice regions get mentioned a lot in the discourse around climate change. We know about how climate change is causing their destruction, but what about how they help to balance the earth and the ecosystems within it?
Ice caps act like a protective cover over our earth and its oceans. The whiteness reflects the sun's rays, cooling the planet down. As more ice caps melt, less heat is reflected and the temperatures rise even faster, causing more meltage. This is the vicious circle of global warming.
Studies show that the thickness and extent of summer sea ice in the Arctic has dramatically decreased over the past thirty years because of our carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions that we produce has raised temperatures, causing the glaciers to rapidly melt.
Scientists predict that if we don't change our rate of emissions the Arctic could be ice free in the summer by 2040. The fewer ice caps we have on the planet, mean more extreme weather we will experience, like hurricanes or typhoons. What happens in the ice regions affects our entire globe. We need to protect the ice caps, so they can keep harmony on our planet.
Making urban areas a little more green
With the rise of urbanisation, more and more natural habitats are being destroyed. A growing human population means it's difficult to know how to keep areas green and full of wildlife. We need plants and trees to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and for the survival of wildlife. It's in these urban areas that the most harmful gasses are given off. Also, infrastructure and vehicles overpopulating the city means that animals are in more danger than ever.
One of the solutions to this problem is the creation of Green Walls. When plants and trees are added to infrastructure, it removes air pollutants, reduces urban temperatures, improves the biodiversity of the area and attenuates rain water.
But, it's not just the environment that these walls help - it's us too. These walls not only look beautiful, but they are proven to increase productivity and well-being, provide health benefits and reduce noise from inside the building. It's a win-win all round.
A green wall in London, due to be the largest in Europe. Each year, it would release 7 tonnes of fresh air and extract 9 tonnes of CO2.
The variation between our different ecosystems is what makes our planet so interesting. From the tropical rainforests to the driest deserts - all our environments work together to create nature’s balance. Each living thing has a vital part to play in the balance of their ecosystem and every ecosystem helps to regulate the others. If one aspect is altered, there is a knock-on effect that changes everything else. When humans damage one aspect of the planet, it affects the larger harmonious system - and we feel the consequences as much as the endangered animals. We need to protect each living species - now more than ever - before it is too late.