April 22 is Earth Day and marks the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement. On April 22, 1970, 20 million Americans took to the streets, parks, and auditoriums to demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable environment in massive coast-to-coast rallies.
Earth Day is now the largest secular observance in the world, celebrated by more than a billion people every year, and is a day of action that changes behaviour and provokes policy changes.
We had a fascinating discussion with Kathleen Rogers, President of the Earth Day Network:
What’s your mission?
The mission of Earth Day is to broaden, diversify and activate the environmental movement worldwide. We now have 192 countries involved with the Earth Day Network.
What motivates you?
My Dad was extremely involved with civil rights and environmental protection, so I’m motivated by inspiring people to take action to address the big issues in the world. People who lack access to resources also motivate me, because I can’t stand the idea of the inequities around the environment.
What is your greatest achievement to date?
The US and China are the first countries to sign the Paris agreement today. I also find it incredible that we have moved towards the concept of environmental literacy and creating a sustainable world for everybody. I can’t really call this an achievement because we are not there yet, but we’re heading in the right direction.
I’m also really proud of the Campaign for Communities, where we brought Black and Latino groups together and activated people around the world to enact change for the better for people and for planet. This year we created a million climate voters – a huge milestone.
What are the challenges you face?
We need governments and companies to change their way of working and lifestyles, to address climate change. We also need an alternative to coal – that’s a challenge because we don’t always have the tools or the government backing to help us. We can do it, but we can’t always do it alone.
What are you working on that’s getting you fired up and excited?
Earth Day is all about connecting people all around the world to demonstrate and support the environment. Our million voter campaign is really exciting, and our work in India with the government and communities around the health impact of fossil fuels is a big one.
Where do you want to take the Earth Day Network next?
Right now our focus is on the climate agreement, and looking at what we can accomplish in 2020. Our 2020 plans are really aspirational – by 2020 I would like to see and end to whale, shark, elephant and tiger hunting. I want 2020 to see our schools worldwide equitable. I want Earth Day in 2020 to be a mark in time where people rush out of their home and say ‘we can do this’.
What can we, as individuals, do to make a difference on Earth Day?
I care about community engagement more than anything. People need to care about what surrounds them locally. The way to begin caring about global issues starts at home. Today I encourage people to do something local and then work their way out. So for Earth Day I advise people to do something local, like plant something.
If you ruler of the world for a day what would you do?
If I was ruler of the world I would ban coal for good and get rid of nuclear. I would also create more national parks and preserve the beauty of nature forever.
What’s the coolest project or product you’ve come across, and inspired you?
I think the most exciting development in green energy at the moment is energy battery and storage. These batteries are monumentally cool, and there’s so much going on on the tech side. I’m a huge tech fan, green energy is really important to be.
Can you recommend a life- or game-changing book for our readers?
Lord of the Flies, I’ve read it 100 times. The reason I read it over and over again is because I find it incredibly insightful about group action, and it really effected me and informed me about the innocent ‘Piggy’s’ of the world. I do think that understanding the importance of not killing the innocent is the central theme of that great book.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
My mantra is ‘do first, apologise later’. I was given this advice by a lawyer. I think if we sit around waiting for people to give us permission to take action we would never get anywhere.
Can you leave us with who’d be your Eco Hero?
Earth Day Network nominates Eco Hero’s every day, so I have a great list of people who are doing incredible things. But coming away from that my eco heroes are the group of kids from Oregon who just filed a law suit against the US Government for not taking enough climate action.
Celebrate Earth Day with us and plant something! Follow what the world isdoing today to celebrate through #EarthDay2017 or visit Earth Day Network’s website to find out more about their fantastic campaigns.
Here from more of our Greenhouse Pioneers on our blog.