Earth Day around the World: Sharing, Learning and Building Environmental Consciousness with Newcomers
By Sustainable Living/Green Access, Access Alliance
Species extinction, topsoil loss, deforestation, ocean acidification, plastic rain, global warming. It is no exaggeration to say our planet is in crisis, a human created crisis. Extreme weather events affect all life across the planet. And the exploitation of our planet doesn’t stop at natural resources, but extends to the exploitation of people as well. Societies around the world are staggeringly unjust: Financial empires are built on the backs of Indigenous peoples, unpaid and underpaid women, sweatshop workers, and all forms of non-human life. The extent of injustice can be overwhelming, but we also have much to appreciate and inspire us. In this context, Earth Day is an opportunity to bring people together for a celebration of life on Earth, but also a call to action.
|Earth Day Origins
The origins of Earth Day date back to the American environmental movement of the 1960’s. During this time, America’s collective environmental consciousness was being raised through books like Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring, as well as the publicity garnered by environmental disasters like the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill. The first official Earth Day was in 1970; since then, people have become more aware of the assaults on the living world. Of the 195 countries on the planet, Earth Day is said to be observed in 193 of them, and engages more than a billion people in civic engagement and volunteerism.
Reflections of Earth Day around the World
Canada is warming at nearly twice the global rate with parts of western and northern Canada warming three or four times the global average. Here in Toronto, unusual weather, including hotter summer temperatures have caused many to turn their attention to the environment in our daily lives. Hotter summers impact residents who live in tower blocks without air conditioning.
On a gorgeous rainy Saturday (April 22), Access Alliance hosted Earth Day in our community space at AccessPoint on Danforth. It was open to all ages and used hands-on activities to help participants learn about environmental issues such as biodiversity loss, water pollution and conservation. Many newcomers to Canada come with their own experiences of Earth Day, so we asked our clients and community members what Earth Day means to them:
“I knew about it [Earth Day] in India. We cleaned up Bharat and also lights were switched off. We learned about protecting the environment from air pollution.”
“In China we knew Earth Day. We spent time outside tree planting.”
The realities of forced migration, including war, social repression and marginalization also affect who is conscious of Earth Day pre-migration:
“I didn’t know about Earth Day. There was war in my Country. I learned about it when I came to Canada and was at Access Alliance. Ziadh took everyone to Oakridge Park and we cleaned. We received books, pizza and drinks. On that day we learned about which bins to use to recycle. I met Marvin who gave our children bikes.”
“This was my first time hearing about Earth Day. I never heard it before.”
“I only learned about Earth Day after coming (to) Canada. I heard about different activities happened in the school from my kids. All the kids together clean the school ground and Dentonia Park.”
Community members of all ages got their hands dirty, learned about the living world and their place in it as well as the practical steps anyone can take to protect the planet. Attendees learned how to make clay pot irrigation, seed dumplings to restore biodiversity, and also planted their own lettuce pots to take home. Lastly, the “plastics budget walking race” was a fun competitive activity which demonstrated the ways people can reduce plastic use and the impacts of plastics in the ecosystem – the winner is the planet!
How Access Alliance Promotes Environmental Consciousness throughout the Year
Beyond Earth Day, Access Alliance is doing its part to develop a culture and practice of prevention with a focus on protecting the most vulnerable. Currently, our Sustainable Living programs focus on creating more green spaces in the city, which equal cooler temperatures. The green cover created by living plants reduces the ‘urban heat island effect’ that traps heat and pollution in urban areas. At AccessPoint on Danforth in Scarborough, the flagship Green Access rooftop demonstrates how abundant green space can be created in urban centers. It also actively engages community members to become their own advocates and spokespeople through programs like Enviroleaders and Youth EcoAction.
Sustainable Living/Green Access aims to inspire and help bring people together to build a healthier, more prosperous future for themselves and their environment. We do this through not only building connections between people but also cultivating people’s connection to the living world.
Join us. Whether you want to be outdoors gardening, taking part in environmental documentary film critiques, becoming an Enviroleader in your community, engaging in biodiversity projects, there is something for you.