Eastern Iowans celebrated Earth Day yesterday with tree planting projects – an important task after trees were damaged in the August derecho according to KCRG. Organizations such as GreenState Credit Union, Trees Forever, Big Grove Brewery, Quality Care and Landscapes, and the City of Iowa City gave more than a thousand seedlings and planted oak trees at Big Grove Brewery.
Over 100 volunteers in Tipton Iowa planted 50 trees around the Tipton Public Library. According to the Tipton Public Works Director Steve Nash, the derecho damaged at least 100 public trees. The Marion-based non-profit Trees Forever is running a tree adoption program in Linn County that is open from now until April 30
President Biden’s Leaders Summit on Climate begins today, on Earth Day, and will conclude on Friday. The summit will be attended by 40 world leaders, including Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin, alongside business leaders. The summit intends to rally public and private sector finance to reach net-zero emissions, according to the New York Times.
To begin the summit, Biden announced goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in half from 2005 levels by 2030 and net-zero by 2050. Although specific plans are undisclosed, the administration is focusing on establishing union jobs in the climate industry and U.S. economic competitiveness in a government-wide approach. The administration hopes to encourage world leaders to adopt similar ambitious policies.
The summit comes as climate scientists warn ambitious proactive action is necessary in order to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Indian Prime Minister Naraendra Modi, and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa all noted the need to better coordinate equitable efforts with developing countries in their opening speeches.
The Leaders Summit on Climate is one of several world leader meetings held in anticipation of the 26th session of the United Nations’ Climate Conference of the Parties (COP26), scheduled for November.
April 22, 2020, is not just another Earth Day. It is the 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day – the one that changed my life forever. Naive and over my head as student body president at Iowa State-1970, my world was on fire with righteous indignation against a compulsory draft for an unjust War in Vietnam. At times I actually thought that it would tear the country apart.
The first Earth Day strangely diverted my immediate attention, and the diversion would last a lifetime. Brainchild of Senator Gaylord Nelson and organized by Denis Hayes as a national Teach-In, Earth Da
y spawned immense bipartisan gatherings of 20 million people in the streets for one unifying goal – a healthy Planet Earth. Earth Day ignited in me a realization that my chemical engineering education from ISU could morph into something green and more fascinating, that is, trying to understand water quality, biodiversity, and the biogeochemistry of Earth’s processes. Discerning remedies for the massive disruptions that 7.7 billion people and an $80 trillion GWP can inflict on the earth has proven even more challenging.
This year we celebrate Earth Day with digital gatherings due to coronavirus. It’s not the same, but perhaps the pandemic can teach us some valuable lessons. Some people were slow to accept the dismal science of a spreading pandemic – they lacked trust in health professionals’ recommendations for social distancing, staying home, and closing businesses, sporting events, churches and social gatherings. But the flattening curves of Wuhan, South Korea, Singapore, and even Italy, Spain, and New York bear testament to the wisdom of their call.
Our national plan for the pandemic Covid-19 was non-existent, like the Emperor’s new clothes, plain for all to see. Pandemics are “global disease outbreaks” and they require national plans and concerted global action. As recently as 2003-2004, WHO mitigated much more rapidly a similar virus, SARS, by careful messaging and international cooperation of 11 labs in 9 different countries. U.S. and Chinese scientists together developed a vaccine within a year. Far too little cooperation exists today, both at home and abroad. Politics and hyper partisanship are disastrous in a time of global need. We can do better.
Analogies between climate change and our pandemic response are obvious. We have no national plan for either. As a young egg-head professor at the University of Iowa, I published my first modeling paper on climate change and its consequences in 1994, many years after others had done so. It projected (surprisingly accurately) the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere today with business-as-usual. That’s exactly what happened – business as usual. If you had told me that the U.S. would still not have comprehensive climate change and energy legislation in 2020, I would have told you, “you’re crazy”.
But it’s in the history books. We have failed to listen to the science and failed to reduce our gargantuan greenhouse gas emissions — the planet cannot take it anymore. Now it really is a Climate Emergency. What’s more, we are threatening to extinct 1 million species in the next generation as well – the Biodiversity Crisis.
Coronavirus humbles us all. How can one not be moved by the sight of doctors, nurses, custodians, and admissions clerks risking their lives for the rest of us? How can one not weep to see the miles of cars lined-up at food banks because families have nowhere else to turn? Playing out in the richest country in the world gives great pause.
Yes, we need science-based decision making on coronavirus and on climate change, but we need compassion and understanding as well. Noted columnist Sarah Van Gelder writes, “Changing hearts and opening minds begins when we listen”. Imagine the world we want, where everyone is safe and healthy, where the air is clean and the water is pure. Then, let us celebrate the 50th Anniversary of that spontaneous, bipartisan, original Earth Day by speaking from the heart and listening to each other.
Jerry Schnoor is professor of civil and environmental engineering and co-director of the Center for Global and Regional Research at the University of Iowa.
“Earth Day deals to save money and help the planet,” one headline reads. “10 products that will help you buy less this Earth Day,” says another. Other articles advertise “clean” beauty products or “green” technology.
Don’t fall for it; buying anything, especially anything you don’t need, ultimately contributes to fossil fuel emissions, resource consumption and the planet’s pervasive trash problem.
“Greenwashing” occurs when an institution puts more resources and effort into marketing itself as eco-friendly than it does actually minimizing its environmental impact. This doesn’t only happen on Earth Day, of course. Many companies, public figures and organizations feature “sustainability missions” on their websites year long, making vague claims about their “zero-waste journey” or “environmental stewardship,” with little concrete information about the implementation or outcomes of such initiatives.
Rebecca Leber, an environmental reporter for Mother Jones, wrote today that she “hates” Earth Day, mostly because it has devolved from a day of protest and activism to a day when anyone can claim to care. Every April, her inbox floods with PR pitches promoting Earth Day news from companies that she knows are less-than-sustainable 364 days of the year.
“Earth Day provides a fine opportunity to showcase how [a company’s] generally negligible corporate gestures demonstrate their commitment to ‘going green,'” she said.
Reducing consumption by fully utilizing what we already own or sharing with others is far better for the planet than consuming new products, even if those products are well-intended. So think critically about the messages you come across. Use up all your shampoo before you invest in that more natural version, buy a used shirt instead of a brand new “organic” tee and forego using a straw at all over buying a metal one.
And if you want to absolutely minimize your carbon footprint today, Quartz writer Ephrat Livni makes the case for “sitting perfectly still” at home with the lights and air conditioning turned off, so that “ever-so-briefly you are not contributing to climate change.”
On April 22, people around the world celebrate Earth Day, spending time cleaning, greening and appreciating the life-giving planet we too often take for granted.
Iowa, of course, will join in on the party. Read below about Earth Day events cities in Iowa will host next week, as well as some activities you can do individually to make a difference.
Des Moines: Festivities in the state capital will begin this weekend. On Friday, Des Moines Parks and Recreation will host an Earth Day Trash Bash, where registered teams will pick up trash around the city. Everyone is welcome to join in on the kick-off party and several other events hosted Friday and Saturday as part of the bash, including a Downtown Earth Day Tour through the science center, botanical garden and riverwalk. A number of other events on Saturday and Monday include wildlife restoration, crafting and stream cleanup.
Cedar Rapids: The city’s 10th annual EcoFest will be on Saturday, April 20. The day’s events include performances, presentations, hands-on activities, tours, awards and more. Last year over 4,000 people attended!
Dubuque: The Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium will participate in a nationwide Party for the Planet event Saturday. Visitors attend presentations, meet animals and do hands-on activities to learn about environmental conservation. Participation in the celebration will be included with general admission and free for children 3 and under.
Davenport: Visit the Freight House Farmer’s Market Saturday morning for speakers, demonstrations, music and activities to learn about problems facing the planet and how you can help fight them.
University of Iowa student organizations have been hosting Earth Month events for weeks, and still have more to come. Consider visiting the Student Garden Open House Saturday, April 27 for food and DIY Chia Pets with the UI Gardeners and attending an environmental benefit concert the following night with the UI Environmental Coalition.
If you’d like to celebrate on your own or with friends consider these activities:
Picking up trash in your neighborhood or at a local park
The Earth Day Network points out that April 22nd has been a day for civic engagement and political activism since 1970, when millions of Americans marched to call attention to the environmental degradation that had been caused by more than a century of unchecked industrial development. With carbon dioxide levels at their highest level in 650,000 years, there is a strong case to live as though every day is Earth Day. Officials from the Earth Day Network have several suggestions for how to do so. From using nontoxic cleaning products to changing vehicle air filters regularly to reading documents online rather than printing them, small changes made by many people can make a big difference.
Individuals interested in learning more about plastic pollution and how to reduce the amount of plastic they consume can also join the End Plastic Pollution campaign. Participants can calculate their own plastic consumption and create a Personal Plastic Plan to reduce consumption and keep track of progress online.
In 2014, Time magazine named Hayhoe one of The 100 Most Influential People particularly because of her work as a climate change evangelist which allows her to combine her Christian faith with her passion for educating the world about climate change.
“There’s something fascinating about a smart person who defies stereotype. That’s what makes my friend Katharine Hayhoe — a Texas Tech climatologist and an evangelical Christian — so interesting,” wrote actor Don Cheadle for a profile in Time. “It’s hard to be a good steward of the planet if you don’t accept the hard science behind what’s harming it, and it can be just as hard to take action to protect our world if you don’t love it as the rare gift it is.”
The event is schedule to begin at 7 p.m. and will take place in Great Hall at the Memorial Union. The lecture will also be live streamed online.
Cosponsors for this event include: the Climate Science Program, the Environmental Law and Policy Center, the Iowa Environmental Council, the Iowa Interfaith Power & Light, NSF EPSCoR, and the Committee on Lectures (funded by GSB).
Apple is flaunting a new video, “Better,” that emphasizes the company’s commitment to going green. The video introduces a new electronic recycling program, where customers can take any old Apple product to any Apple store (or send it in the mail) and the company will either give money back to you or properly recycle the product to keep it out of landfills.
In the Des Moines Register’s Iowa View, Tom Brooks suggests making the switch to biofuels. Biofuels are renewable, sustainable, and are produced locally as well for a great way to promote Iowa jobs as well as our environment.
Or, take your plastic bags to the Iowa City Ped Mall between noon and 4 p.m. for the Reusable Bag Campaign, by the UI Environmental Coalition. Reusable bags will be handed out in exchange!
For more information on Earth Day and how you can participate, click here.