Why April 22 is celebrated as Earth Day?

Sushmita Dutta

The Sun with its family of eight planets – now that the distant ice-covered Pluto is no more a ‘planet’–make our galaxy, the Milky Way; but of all the planets the Earth turned out to be the luckiest. This is because it is the only planet where life became possible, at least far as our knowledge goes. Life in its most beautiful forms developed here, be it humans, animals, plants or marine life. The one thing that made Earth unique was the presence of a superb form of intelligent life called the human race. But somewhere on the way the human race lost its humanity, forgot to acknowledge the planet that gave it life; and used its resources ruthlessly. The world now marks the Earth Day to make the human race realise the importance of the Mother Earth.

Earth Day is celebrated every year on the 22nd of April. In 1970, a senator from Wisconsin, USA, Gaylord Nelson first conceived of this day. The senator was worried about the rate of industrialisation and the careless attitude of everyone towards our environment. It was envisaged to promote the idea of ecology, to encourage respect for life on Earth, and highlight growing concerns about different kinds of pollution. Over 20 million Americans participated in events to mark the first Earth Day and it turned out to be so contagious that today, over a billion people from all over the globe celebrate Earth Day.

But, the question arises as to why we celebrate Earth Day? It’s because we seem to have forgotten what a beautiful gift we have been given in the form of planet Earth. We also seem to have forgotten that this is our home and we need to keep it in order to stay healthy and alive.

Over the centuries we have mercilessly utilized and depleted the Earth’s resources. Our sheer ignorance has begun to cause severe problems like depletion of the Ozone layer, death of rivers due to dumping of industrial waste, global warming etc. In our quest for industrialization heavy amount of deforestation took place. This has harmed the Earth’s environment. The ice at the Poles has started to melt due to the rise in Earth’s temperature. This is an ominous sign of what is to come. We have dug quite a huge pit for ourselves already, but we can still get out of it. So, days like the Earth Day remind us to be caring and loving to the Earth.

We must realize the danger and start taking small steps like planting trees, limiting the use of vehicles thereby reducing pollution, switching off lights when unnecessary and also conserving petrol. These might be small steps but when a billion people do it together, one can definitely see the results. One very good example is the introduction of CNG vehicles in New Delhi. These vehicles have considerably reduced the amount of pollution in Delhi’s atmosphere. On the same side people should see what we have done to the mighty river Yamuna. Years of dumping of industrial waste has turned the river into a nullah.

While people can start ushering in changes with small steps, the governments and politicians will have to take giant leaps to save the mankind. Stringent laws and rules have to be made, to make people realize the importance of protecting the nature. Every nation, developed or not, has to cut down on carbon emissions to reduce the effects of global warming. If not contained, global warming will make the ice-caps at the Poles to melt and raise sea levels. It can be so devastating that it will wipe us out. We can’t be consumed by petty differences anymore. It is our fight to save the mankind from annihilation.

But if we decide to do nothing and let things be as they are, it could just be worse. Earth might just decide to take revenge. The wrath of the planet would be even more furious. Many times we have seen it happen right in front of our eyes. What else are cyclones, flash floods, sudden fires in forests of Australia, tsunamis, earthquakes? Yes, they are revenge of the Earth. And a small revenge by Earth takes a huge toll on mankind. A major climatic shift happens only when we play around with our environment.

The natural resources are depleting fast. It is acceptable that we need petrol, but that is something the Earth is not refusing. It only wants us to use it judiciously. We, human beings, are so caught up in our day-to-day life that we don’t have time to stand and think about the planet we live on. Don’t worry, the feeling could be mutual and dangerous for us. The Earth will find some way to survive, with us if we love and respect it, or without us. So, it’s we who stand to lose.

So on this Earth Day, let us pledge to do take whatever little we can to do to help the planet. Perhaps we can avoid using our car on this day and save petrol and free the atmosphere of some pollution. May be we could recycle the papers and stop using plastic bags. It could be anything, but it will definitely go a long way in saving the mankind. Countries, on the Earth Day, should pledge to reduce the carbon footprints.

According to news reports, famed director of Avatar James Cameron has started the initiative of planting one million trees worldwide. Initiatives like these will only help, and we can take a cue from Cameron and do some good work ourselves also. Let us return some balance to our planet this Earth Day, so that our planet and all those who inhabit it can coexist in peace.

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