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Earth Hour Puts a Planet in Plight Under the Spotlight

by Ossapha Ou

Earth Hour Puts a Planet in Plight
Under the Spotlight

Earth Hour 2021 Makes Light of the Situation

On Saturday, March 27th, millions of people across the globe will switch off the lights simultaneously from 8:30-9:30pm local time in observance of Earth Hour, one of the world’s largest grassroots movements for the environment. This year, the annual lights-out event takes a “lights-on” approach to spread awareness about the plight of our planet with its “Virtual Spotlight” online campaign. Help the Earth Hour message go a viral on March 27th by sharing their must-watch video to your social media, and shine a light on the Earth’s most pressing issues. So as you get ready to turn the lights off for Earth Hour, take some time to reflect on how your everyday activities affect the planet, what changes you can make to reduce your impact on it, and what you can do to educate others on the environmental challenges facing us.

We currently face a climate change crisis that threatens life on Earth as we know it. The way we’ve been consuming products, exhausting our natural resources, and polluting the environment over the decades has started taking a toll on the quality of our water, air, and soil. Carbon dioxide concentration levels in our atmosphere is at a 3 million year high, more than 8 million tons of plastic is dumped into our oceans each year, and our forests are rapidly being depleted at a current rate of over 15 billion trees annually. This unsustainable reliance on natural and nonrenewable resources disrupts the delicate balance of nature, destabilizing the global climate. Now is the time to put these important environmental issues under the spotlight.

Shining a Light on Plastic Pollution

Plastic is versatile, durable, and inexpensive to create, but it’s nearly impossible to break down. Much of the plastic bottles and containers that are commonly found in your home can take over 1000 years to decompose out of sight. It accounts for nearly 20% of landfill waste, continuously leaching toxic chemicals into our soil and groundwater and spewing greenhouse gas emissions into the air non-stop. The loose pieces of plastic trash that litter our landscapes most definitely eyesores, but if it finds its way into the ocean, this is when plastic pollution becomes a real killer. Each year 8 billion tons of plastic waste gets dumped into the ocean, slowly destroying entire ecosystems and killing millions of seabirds and other sea creatures in its wake.

Plastic also contributes to climate change, generating heat-trapping gases at every stage of its life cycle. Plastic ocean pollution threatens plankton populations that play a critical role in removing CO2 from the air, and it plays a part in the warming of surface water. This reduces the ability for the ocean, the planets largest carbon sink, to efficiently absorb greenhouse gases from out of the atmosphere.

The Problem With Plastic

  • 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic has been created since its creation
  • Over 300 million tons of plastic is manufactured each year
  • 40% of the plastic that’s produced is made for single-use products
  • 75% of all the plastic that has ever been produced is already waste
  • 8 million tons of plastic is dumped into the ocean each year
  • Plastic soda bottles, detergent bottles, fishing line, and sandwich bags, can take over 1000 years to decompose. Some mixed plastics can even take over 1 million years to break down

How You Can Help

  • Reduce the plastic you use, reuse the plastic you already have, and recycle the plastic you rid
  • Join a local cleanup event, or organize your own, to keep your favorite places litter-free
  • Shop at local farmer’s markets and bulk bin stores, using your own tote bag to carry your food in
  • YOLO so ditch the plastic red Solo, in favor of this Reusable Party Cup
  • Do a plastic audit of your home, replacing single-use products with sustainable alternatives

Shining a Light on Deforestation

Swapping out a disposable paper product with a sustainable tree-free alternative is a lifesaver–literally! 1.5 billion people rely on forests to sustain their ways of life, and over three hundred million living directly inside of the woods. In fact, the forest is home to 80% of all terrestrial life on Earth, despite covering just 30% of land area on the planet. Despite immense value they hold, forested areas across the globe are being destroyed at an alarming rate. Since the 1960’s, almost half of the planet’s rainforests have been lost. This rapid rate of depletion doesn’t just threaten the life in the forest; deforestation is an environmental crisis that puts all life on the planet at risk. The world’s forests are an indispensable ally in the fight against climate change, with diverse ecosystems that removes 25% of heat-trapping CO2 that humans add into the air, replacing it with breathable oxygen.

The Disenchanted Forest

  • More than 15 billion trees are cut down each year at an unsustainable rate that continues to increase year over year
  • Over 120 natural remedies and 25% of cancer-fighting organisms are found in rainforests, with countless more medical benefits yet to be discovered
  • The U.S. contains just 5% of the world’s population, yet consumes 30% of its paper
  • Despite covering only 30% of the land area on Earth, forested areas are home to 80% of all terrestrial life on the planet

How You Can Help

  • Use technology to go paperless whenever you can. Scanning, emailing, and zero waste notebooks are just some ways that you can reduce paper in your home or at the office
  • Purchase recycled paper products, and recycle what you no longer need
  • Purchase tree-free alternatives like the swaps you can find at Zero Waste Store
  • Avoid products that use palm oil, one of the primary causes of deforestation
  • Plant trees whenever you can, wherever you can
  • Do research on businesses and organizations, and support the ones that are committed to conservation efforts

Shining a Light on Air Pollution

There is nothing that each one of us will consume more of in our lifetimes than air, so we should all be deeply concerned about the quality of the stuff we breathe into our bodies. Air pollution appears to directly cause or contribute to a whole slew of medical conditions, ranging from minor breathing difficulties to much more severe issues, such as heart disease and stroke.

The quality of our air doesn’t just affect our individual health; it affects the health of the planet. Air pollution and climate change are very closely tied together. For the past 10,000 years, the makeup of Earth’s atmospheric composition has allowed life to thrive on the planet, maintained by the natural exchanging of carbon dioxide and oxygen gases from the earth to the air, and vice versa. However, the rapid increase in the use of burning fossil fuels for power is gradually disrupting this delicate balance in nature, causing heat-trapping CO2 levels to saturate the atmosphere. The direct result is an unnatural rise in the global climate, which is having far-reaching and increasingly devastating effects on the environment.

Nothing But Dead Air

  • Carbon Dioxide concentration levels are the highest they have ever been in the last 3 million years, and rising at an increasing rate
  • A gradual rise in surface water temperatures is affecting the ocean’s ability to absorb CO2 from the atmosphere and disrupting the natural balance that regulates the global climate.
  • Arctic sea ice has been decreasing over the last 30 years at an average rate of 3.2% per decade, putting freshwater supplies and entire ecosystems at great risk
  • Over 800 million people worldwide are vulnerable to the effects of climate change that has seen an increase in heat waves, droughts, floods, extreme weather events, and a rise in sea levels.

How You Can Help

  • Calculate your carbon footprint and constantly search out new ways to reduce it
  • Replace your old appliances with energy efficient ones
  • Walk or bike when you can, and use public transportation as much as possible
  • Install a programmable thermostat to cool or warm your home efficiently
  • Unplug any electronic devices that aren’t being used
  • Shop locally grown produce, which do not have long distances to travel to get to you

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