Earth Day 2024 And The Environmental Challenges Posed By Using Plastics

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Today in the 55th Earth Day – an annual celebration that was, astonishingly, created and started in 1970 by a strangely bipartisan pair of American politicians: Republican U.S. Representative Pete McCloskey of California and Democratic U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin.

Earth Day 2024 and the environmental challenges posed by using plastics-compressed
Earth Day 2024 and the environmental challenges posed by using plastics-compressed

The Earth Day website’s “history” section serves as a potent reminder of both how different that era was from our own in many ways—the anti-Vietnam War movement, for example, played a key role in the event’s beginning—and how similar our two eras are in other ways, too— as a time when young people were extremely worried about their future well-being and while problems like “oil spills, polluting factories and power vegetation, uncooked sewage, toxic dumps, pesticides, freeways, the loss of desert and the extinction of natural world” plagued the USA.

 

Senator Nelson was motivated to combine the fervor of student anti-war demonstrations with the growing public awareness of air and water pollution, having been inspired by the student anti-war movement. Senator Nelson convinced Republican Congressman Pete McCloskey to be his co-chair after he proposed the concept for a teach-in on college campuses to the national media.In order to maximize student involvement, Nelson enlisted the help of young activist Denis Hayes to plan the campus teach-ins and spread the idea to a larger audience. They decided to hold the event on April 22, a weekday that falls between Spring Break and Final Exams.

By the time of the movement’s launch on April 22, 1970, “20 million Americans — at the time, 10% of the total population of the United States — [took to] the streets, parks, and auditoriums to demonstrate against the impacts of 150 years of industrial development which had left a growing legacy of serious human health impacts,” according to the website. Hayes and the team he assembled led the movement to success.

Additionally, the occasion contributed right away to a rush of progressive national policy changes in Washington during the administration of Republican Richard Nixon:

The United States Environmental Protection Agency was established by the end of 1970 as a result of the first Earth Day, and other groundbreaking environmental laws, such as the Clean Air Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, and the National Environmental Education Act, were also passed. Congress enacted the Clean Water Act two years later.
The terrible threat posed by environmental degradation is more greater now than it was in 1970, as people celebrate Earth Day 2024 all across the planet. The current generation has its work cut out for it when it comes to issues like the climate emergency and the increasingly extreme weather patterns it is causing, sea level rise and desertification, the extinction of species worldwide, water and air pollution, and the proliferation of dangerous “forever chemicals” like PFAS.

In 2024, the Earth Day website will focus particularly on two pressing issues: the global plastic crisis and the “60X40 movement,” which aims to cut plastic production worldwide by 60% by that year.

Here are some of the key facts identified:

9.1 billion – quantity of plastic manufactured in tons since the material’s introduction in 1950

 

79 – % of all plastic ever made that is still in the environment or in landfills

 

50 billion – number of plastic water bottles that Americans buy annually (about 156 bottles per person)

 

5 trillion – the approximate amount of plastic bags used year worldwide

 

25 billion – amount of coffee cups made of Styrofoam that Americans discard annually

 

14 million – quantity of plastic, measured in tons, that enters the world’s oceans annually, with a large portion of it taking the form of hazardous microplastics that

 

75 to 199 million – current estimated tonnage of plastic in the world’s oceans

 

2050 – the year that, according to estimates, the total weight of plastic debris in the world’s oceans will surpass the total weight of fish.

 

More than 70,000 – average amount of microplastic particles that each American consumes annually from their drinking water

 

As much as 23 times greater – the quantity of plastic pollution that contaminates land and waterways and makes its way into the food chain when animals unintentionally consume it, as opposed to marine plastic pollution

 

99.9% – projected effectiveness of biologically-active slow sand filters in eliminating microplastics from drinking water; these filters are used in several water treatment facilities for decontamination.

 

80% – By using current strategies to cut back on our use of single-use plastics and switching to more environmentally friendly options, we could cut the quantity of plastic that enters the oceans each year by 2040.

 

 

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