Remembering the Roots of Earth Day
From Stephanie Feldstein, Population and Sustainability Program Director
Fifty-two years ago, people organized the first Earth Day as a call to action against rampant air and water pollution. The movement helped pass many of the United States’ bedrock environmental protection laws.
Since then global population has doubled, and we’ve seen dramatically increased consumption, industrialization and pollution. New data from the World Health Organization show that 99% of people breathe unhealthy air. Black and Indigenous people, people of color, and low-wealth communities are more likely to be harmed by dirty air, unsafe water and pesticide exposure.
These days Earth Day is often honored with park cleanups and compost workshops — good projects, but our planet needs more. This week we should remind ourselves that the work to stem toxic pollution is far from over, and we can’t separate the fight to save life on Earth from the fights for gender, racial and social justice. Read on for the latest news on gender in climate plans, the colonial roots of cattle ranching, and more.
This week’s #EarthWeekArtSeek photo challenge encouraged people to celebrate the beauty around them — in their communities, Earth-friendly actions and local nature. Jamie Zaccaria snapped this shot at Cape May, New Jersey.
Gender Equity Is Missing From Climate Plans
Research shows that women and gender-diverse people are disproportionately affected by climate change. It also shows that increasing access to reproductive healthcare and putting women in leadership roles improve resilience and environmental protection. Yet a new Center report analyzing 21 municipal climate plans across the United States found that only one of them mentions any gender-specific strategies for climate change mitigation or adaptation — and none includes solutions related to family planning or reproductive health.
Our new report recommends ways cities can use existing climate-plan structures to better understand gender disparities, address inequality as a public health issue, educate officials on gender equity and the climate, and advance empowerment programs in their community.
Here’s one thing you can do: Share the report with your local representatives to educate them on the importance of gender equity in climate plans. If they’d like additional information, tell them to email the Center’s Kelley Dennings.
Regenerative Grazing Webinar — Register Now
Join us on April 28 for the next webinar in our Grazing the Wild series: “Regenerative Grazing: Addressing the Colonial Roots of Cattle Ranching.” Our expert panelists — Dr. Linda Alvarez, Dr. Liz Carlisle and Dr. Rosa Ficek — will dive into the history of how livestock grazing has affected the ways land was imagined, understood and used. They’ll also discuss pathways to reviving knowledge and food practices that are in line with healthy communities and environments. Learn more and register now.
If you missed the first two webinars in the series — one about separating fact from fiction on grass-fed and regenerative beef, the other about putting bad policy out to pasture — you can watch them here.
Short-term rentals in Joshua Tree, California, have become a growing threat to the region’s namesake. Joshua trees, which look like they belong in a Dr. Seuss book, are threatened by climate change, fire and development. The desert town has become one of the fastest-growing markets in the country for Airbnb, VRBO and other short-term rentals. As in other cities, much of the growth isn’t from locals renting out spare apartments but wealthy investors buying up homes and land to convert into luxury vacation destinations, often spiking housing costs in the process.
This rapid development is changing the area’s character, transforming the rolling desert landscapes with harsh modern architecture and threatening the iconic, imperiled Joshua tree. Due to a successful Center petition, the California Fish and Game Commission temporarily protected western Joshua trees in 2020 and will soon decide whether to permanently protect them under the state’s Endangered Species Act.
Austria Incentivizes Repair
Most products made today, from clothing to electronics, are mass-produced to be disposable, encouraging people to toss and replace damaged items instead of repairing them. This causes an enormous amount of unnecessary waste, pollution and cost. Some manufacturers make it nearly impossible to repair their products by refusing to release necessary manuals and tools — or by installing technological blockers that create problems if an unauthorized technician tries to fix a device.
But in 2020 the city of Vienna, Austria, recognized the benefits of repair to the environment and local businesses by instituting a “repair bonus” subsidizing 50% of the cost of anything repairable. More than 35,000 items were repaired, saving an estimated 850 tons of greenhouse gas emissions. Although Vienna’s program ended, Austria has since reduced the tax on repairs of certain items and just launched a national repair bonus focused on electronic equipment.
Here’s one thing you can do: Learn more about the Right to Repair movement and how to get involved.
How Would You Change Our Future Footprint?
A new tool by the Global Footprint Network helps show how population and consumption work hand in hand to drain the planet’s resources. You can use the tool to adjust global fertility rates, ecological footprints and other key parameters to see how they’d change the arc of our ecological debt between now and the end of the century.
Each year the Global Footprint Network marks Earth Overshoot Day, when we’ve used up more resources than the planet can replenish annually. The date typically falls during the summer, inching up every year as population and consumption grow. If everyone lived like people in the United States, the Earth would have already been in overshoot by mid-March.
Here’s one thing you can do: Check out this map of solutions from around the world — and add your own — to help push our overshoot back into balance with nature.
Wildlife Spotlight: Dixie Valley Toad
In a remote region of central Nevada called Dixie Meadows, a little speckled toad spends its days soaking in natural hot springs. The warm water helps the toad get through the Great Basin’s long, cold winters and keeps away diseases that can’t survive warm temperatures. The Dixie Valley toad, found only on about 760 acres, is the smallest of all western toads. By the time it was identified as a distinct species in 2017, it was already imperiled.
The toad’s cozy desert oasis home has been invaded by developers aiming to build a geothermal power plant that threatens the springs the toad needs to survive. Earlier this month, after years of Center work, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service gave the toad emergency protection under the Endangered Species Act — but bulldozers haven’t left its habitat. The Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Tribe and the Center are taking legal action to stop the plant’s construction.