22 April 2019
Following protests against the black smog, air pollution already encompassing the world in 1970, the US Congress and President Richard Nixon responded by creating the Environmental Protection Agency.
Since then, Earth Day has become an annual global event. The Earth Day Network claims that over 1 billion people in 192 countries now take part in possibly the world’s largest civic-focused day of action.
In 2018, the theme was “To End Plastic Pollution”, promoting the elimination of primarily single-use plastics as well as implementing regulations for the disposal of plastics, and now we’ve seen New York become the second US state to enact laws to halt the use of single-use plastic bags, following California. More locally, Chulalongkorn University is pushing for a similar policy as part of their “Single Waste” project.
The theme for this year is “Protect Our Species”, which includes threatened and endangered flora and fauna. Of course, one day won’t be enough. Like with ending plastic pollution, it will require education, lobbying for policy shifts and adopting new behaviours, including altering diet and eradicating the use of harmful pesticides and herbicides.
As temperatures continue to rise, causing unprecedented changes to our environment and our lives, there are ways we can individually and as a society contribute to reducing our impact on the planet and avert disaster. Here then are a few ways you can help.
You might choose to eat less meat, especially beef, as cattle are the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases. We also need to reduce our waste. One organization in Bangkok, Scholars of Sustenance, or Thai Harvest/SOS, is now collecting uneaten perishable food from restaurants and castaways from supermarkets, to redistribute to those in need, thus reducing garbage while assisting the less fortunate.
When it comes to our homes, inside we can do something as simple as switching to LED light bulbs, while outside, we can try to use public transport more as well as ride bicycles and walk. The BMA is focusing on this as the MRT and BTS are extended and pedestrian walkways along streets are improved as well as extended below the BTS.
Then, there is our land and coasts. Tree planting should continue, including mangroves. These serve as major carbon sinks, which will absorb harmful carbon dioxide (CO2). We can also plant more bamboo as this is a superstar in storing carbon and will grow where a lot of other trees just cannot make it because of soil degradation.
At the same time, to reduce air pollution and save energy, we can encourage our governments to invest more in alternative energies, wind and solar, along with coastal waves and river currents, not damming them, but by installing generating waterwheels.
Back to our homes, we can be much more careful in our use of water as well as recycling it for our gardens. We can also be more careful with the operation of our refrigerators and air conditioning units to save energy and protect the ozone from leaking chemicals.
So, even though Earth Day 2019 has passed, our fight to protect our planet and species can never stop.