World Environment Day: how you can take care of me, Earth

You may know me as "terra", mother of all life. I am 4.6 billion years old, more than 12,700 kilometers in diameter and have a surface area of 510,100,000 square kilometers – of which 70 percent are water and 30 percent land. While there is more life on me than I can count, I inhabit over seven billion humans. As your Earth, it is my mission to protect not only you but all of life, from the tiniest bug to the largest whale in the ocean, from weeds to reefs. Unfortunately, some humans spoil the broth and while you might mean well, there is a reckless exploitation of resources, especially of non-renewable resources. It takes millions of years for fossil fuels such as gas or coal to form, and yet humans use them up like nothing else. Not to mention how deforestation harms not only animals but also humans and my resources, the entire atmosphere. That is why I am happy to talk about World Environment Day, which in 2020 focuses on biodiversity.
world environment day

For a while now, the issue of biodiversity loss has been on the G8 agenda. It is time we raised awareness for all life on me and take action to save our planet.

Save a species, save a life, save Earth

Surely you have all heard about tigers, rhinos, gorillas and blue whales – just some of the species at the top of the list of most endangered species, according to the WWF. Over 14,000 of my species are currently under threat of extinction – and that just concerns animals. 

Corals and plant life are also threatened. Nature is being destroyed at an alarmingly fast rate – mainly to use up non-renewable resources to produce consumer goods and many more materials and things they need in their daily lives. They drill holes, build pipelines and pollute my atmosphere with their heavy machinery. They risk leakages, risk destroying my waters with their spilled oil and overturned freight ships. They throw garbage into my rivers, killing marine life as a consequence – although it could be so simple.

Recycling is the first step towards a better life for me and you. If you recycle your bottle or plastic containers, less oil needs to be used to produce new plastic. And less oil means no more hurtful drills, no more gulls coated in black tar, dying a miserable death. The loss I am experiencing every day is devastating and painful. Not all hope is lost, however. Together, we can still change the course of my decline. Once united, we can lessen the reckless use of resources and save ourselves.

Life is not a long play record, it has no Side B

"There is no Planet B" – once we have taken our resources, there is no coming back. We cannot simply push reset or turn the record to go ahead with side B. If forests continue to be destroyed, there will be no wood to build your furniture, no trees to feed your fireplaces. Without even the smallest plants, some species cannot survive – we might lose honey, for example and I am pretty sure you love honey on your toast in the morning.

That is why recycling is so imperative. If we keep materials in the loop, if we reuse them and switch to environmentally conscious products, we're able to save resources and mitigate the pain caused to me.

To raise awareness that there is no backup Earth, no Planet B, Earth Overshoot Day was created.

world environment day

What is Earth Overshoot Day?

Each year, Earth Overshoot Day is calculated anew. It marks the day on which you have used more resources and produce than my nature can renew in a year's time. In 2019, Earth Overshoot Day was on July 29. We would have needed 1.75 Earths that year to sustain all of humanity. For years now, the date of Earth Overshoot Day has been moving forward in the calendar, compared to the preceding year. I am losing my resources at a faster pace every year. I am feeling emptier from year to year.

With 1.75 Earths required last year, who knows when two or three of me will be needed to sustain life. Eroding all resources in the current manner means to threaten the livelihood of all life on Earth. The way my population meets its needs today is actually comprising the ability of future generations to meet theirs to the same extent.
It will shake the very foundations of economies, food security, health and quality of life in a way you can hardly anticipate. Sustainability is key to move the date.

world environment day cups

Easy ways to lead a sustainable life

A sustainable way of living is the best weapon to fight back against my decline. Save me and I will save you. There are a few suggestions on how you can integrate a more sustainable attitude into your everyday life. Recycle whatever can be recycled – it's the easiest way to save resources. That also means to buy less prepacked foods and use reusable cups or cutlery if possible, to donate or upcycle what you don't need instead of throwing it out. Buying locally sourced produce helps as well, as it reduces carbon dioxide emissions. Shorter transportation also means that oil, gas and coal are saved.

Living sustainably will help you become more aware of your environment on a day-to-day basis. Are there some things you are already doing? Can you become more conscious of your everyday actions? Each and every one of you can help shape a more positive future for yourselves, your children and me. It is as easy as turning off the tap while brushing your teeth.

Celebrate World Environment Day with me

World Environment Day can give us a small glimpse into what we can all change on a daily basis. It can show us how easy it is to commit to a more sustainable lifestyle – even if you start small. Share World Environment Day with your friends and family to raise awareness for biodiversity and what it could mean for me if all the endangered flora and fauna vanished.

Workshops, puzzles, plays and exhibitions raise awareness all over the world. Maybe the next time you need a present for a friend, how about a reusable cup? That way, your coffee-loving friend can enjoy their morning beverage in an environmentally friendly way instead of using a wasteful to-go cup five days a week. Or you could meet up and upcycle out-of-fashion shirts and fabric into shopping bags or reusable sandwich wrappers.

Celebrate World Environment Day by celebrating Earth – and by celebrating all the steps you have been and are taking to work towards a more sustainable future.