Why is Earth Day Important?
As we celebrate Earth Day on 22 April each year, it should serve up two reminders. One has to do with the past, like a birthday. We need to celebrate all the ecosystem services provided by the Earth to make our lives on this planet livable, indeed even glorious. Fresh air, clean water, diverse natural landscapes, productive soils for food production, minerals to support our technologies, plants and animals to enrich our lives in myriad ways. Earth is a wonderfully hospitable place to live, despite the ravages of natural disasters like earthquakes and volcanoes. In fact, it’s the only place we have to live, and it will remain so for considerable time.
The other reminder has to do with the future. Humans can be really nasty to their earthly habitat. One aspect of this is the global human population, which many believe is too large for Earth’s resources to support adequately over the long term. But another, perhaps more important, is the “footprint” of each individual alive today. The more of Earth’s resources each of us consumes, and the more we dump our unwanted materials into the environment, the less and less hospitable for life Earth becomes. Earth Day should remind us to live gently on our planet and to reflect deeply on what each consumptive decision we make means for environmental sustainability.
Are we handing to our children and grandchildren a world we can be proud for them to inherit?
Earth Day is an annual reminder of our responsibility to engage in daily stewardship of our spaceship Earth. We would not need an annual Earth Day if EVERY day were a celebration of Earth’s bounty!
Dr. Peter Duinker and David Foster, Dalhousie University, April 2019