For 46 years now, the United States and many other countries have observed April 22nd as Earth Day. Back in 1970, Earth Day was the culmination of a movement born out of growing public outrage at the lack of political response to rampant pollution and gross environmental degradation perpetrated around the country.
That first Earth Day attracted over 20 million participants, and since then, the movement has continued to grow and expand to encompass all environmental issues, including, most recently, climate change. This year’s theme is “Trees for the Earth.”
Forests are the earth’s lungs, and as such, are critically important to our well-being. They capture and store the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, and produce oxygen. They regulate global and regional climate-systems, and release moisture into the atmosphere, which then returns to earth in the form of rain. For local populations, they are a vital source for food, fuel, medicines, and income-generating forest products such as rubber and nuts.
So if a forest is cut down, the negative effect is far-reaching in its degradation of our common habitat. When trees are logged, the trees themselves and the denuded landscapes release their stored carbon dioxide. In fact, deforestation and land-use changes produce nearly one quarter of global greenhouse-gas emissions.
Nonetheless, every year, we lose over 15 billion trees due to deforestation, land development, and poor forest management. This degrades our environment and exacerbates both the causes and effects of climate change.
The idea behind this year’s slogan, “Trees For The Earth,” is to inspire people to plant trees—7.8 billion of them-- by the year 2020. Nearly 8 billion new trees will help us fight climate change and pollution, slow down environmental degradation and protect biodiversity.
On this Earth Day, let us remember that reductions in deforestation and mass planting of new trees can help curb many of the environmental problems our planet faces today.