April 22 marks the celebration of Earth Day in many countries around the world. To many, this represents an opportunity to raise awareness about overpopulation, pollution, conservation of biodiversity and other environmental concerns. In a world that has been struggling for over a year with the Covid-19 pandemic, this date becomes more meaningful than ever. A mere analysis of humans’ harmful actions towards nature no longer meets the challenge and falls short of what is truly needed.
According to the United Nations, this date highlights “the collective responsibility to promote harmony with nature and Mother Earth, to achieve the right balance between the economic, social, and environmental needs of present and future generations.” But collective responsibility requires individual and conscious efforts, and I think I am speaking for many of us when I say some background information is required before committing to a cause. So here goes.
Students in capitalist societies remain our best hope.
The origins of Earth Day
The first time that Earth Day was celebrated was on April 22, 1970. Its promoter was Gaylord Nelson, a US Democratic senator and activist who sought to generate public awareness to create a federal environmental agency in the United States. Thousands of universities and schools participated in the event, represented by millions of people. Thanks to the demonstration, the United States government created the Environmental Protection Agency and passed a series of laws aimed at protecting the environment. Nelson chose this date because he thought it was the best one to guarantee the attendance of university students, teachers, and professors, who were the groups that supported this cause the most. He was confident that students in westernized and capitalist societies were, and remain, our best hope.
We are the last generation
Like many other social movements, climate and environmental justice groups are formed and promoted by students and young adults that believe in science, unlike some senior politicians and company leaders. Many have come to the painful realization that indigenous and native communities have been warning us about our unhealthy relationship with nature for centuries, only to now finally acknowledge that ours is the last generation that can save the planet (or at least a planet that can sustain all human life).
As I always say, every action we take impacts other beings on Earth, and we do have some control to choose if this impact is positive or negative. One quote that really stood out to me a couple of years ago read: “When you die, will there be less suffering in the world because you lived or because you died?” I think about this almost on a daily basis. Taking care of the Earth is also taking care of ourselves and others. We are all part of ecological collectives that are essential to this planet’s balance, and, in a world with so much suffering, hating on humankind and blaming each other is not the solution and will not move us forward.
Hult gave me the space to be creative and develop my ideas with the support of a global community.
My environmental awakening
My personal journey of environmental awareness started during my time at Hult, a place that gave me the space to be creative and the opportunity to develop my ideas with the support of a global community and a plethora of academics. Sustainability and environmental degradation are business issues too—and being part of an institution that promoted and rewarded such a mindset was undoubtedly a hallmark on my journey. These are some of the tips and advice I learnt during this time that have helped me become a sustainable citizen on Earth.
- Surround yourself with people who inspire you to become better by expanding your knowledge and increasing your awareness. These two social media accounts have provided me with an endless source of inspiration and information on becoming a sustainable citizen on Earth: @earthrise.studio and @allwecansave.
- Green your finances: Many of the mainstream banks we know are hardcore contributors to industries that are literally killing the planet, such as the extraction of fossil fuels. Shifting to alternative solutions that invest responsibly will create a bigger demand for ethical and sustainable banking. For example, Triodos.
- Vote consciously: Demand your politicians have the climate crisis at the core of their agendas and only vote for political parties that take this issue seriously.
- Be a mindful consumer: When possible, get the plastic-free alternative, reduce your meat and dairy consumption, and buy less overall.
- Talk to your friends and family: Start conversations around what is happening, our role in society, and what can be done to help.
Systems of privilege
We must also acknowledge the privilege systems that were created decades ago, and many still benefit from. As a result, responsibility, and the ability to change, will look different for different people and communities. For some, this means eating less meat; for others, reducing their plastic consumption and taking fewer flights. Every solution will be problematic for some and achievable for others.
Today, you will see an abundance of lists like this one telling you what should or should not be done to help the planet, but the truth is: we can only help ourselves by acknowledging that every time a forest burns, a town floods, and a species becomes extinct, a part of us dies too. It occurs to me that, to reverse the negative balance of global climate destruction, it is time to appeal to the imagination to create an alternative, sustainable, and plausible future that restores the destructive and incessant action of the Anthropocene. As students of the last generation, it is in our best interest to imagine such a future and create it by defying the status quo.
The solution is already within us; we just have to be brave enough to embrace it.
“We often forget that we are nature. Nature is not something separate from us. So, when we say that we have lost our connection to nature, we’ve lost our connection to ourselves.”― Andy Goldsworthy
I want to end with a message of gratitude to all those who take care of our planet, not just today but every day. Those who ceaselessly work in conservation, who educate, who are informed, and who do not stand idly by. Because although there is still a long way to go, we are millions and millions with an unstoppable determination to do our bit.
Happy Earth Day!
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