Alessandra Giolo is completing Masters degrees in Global Environmental Politics and in Environmental Science at Sodertorn and Stockholm University. Her dissertation is on Transboundary Water Management. She is an intern at the GWP global secretariat, and this blog is her story of how Earth Day triggered her interest in the environmental sector.
My primary school was one of the first in Italy to have “Environmental Education” on its curriculum, thanks to a dedicated teacher who introduced us to what now is one of the most important and talked-about subjects in politics, society, and academia. In that class I wrote my first essay, “Earth Day: the relationship between humans and nature.” The essay was a collection of themes and works we had studied, and it was from this early age that my interest in the environment was born.
Nature and environmental politics took time to gather academic attention, but during my Bachelor studies in International Relations an inspiring professor taught us the limitations of the earth’s resources and her concern for the speed of degradation and exploitation humans were posing to the planet. That motivated me to pursue my first Master’s in Environmental Science and a second one in Global Environmental Politics, in order to have a comprehensive understanding from both the scientific and the political sides.
Today, in 2021, environmental awareness is very different, with most people having heard of environmental protection and restoration, mitigation of climate change, and the need to transition to clean energy sources. These are not only at the top of political and policy makers’ agendas, but there are targets that humanity must meet to ensure our survival. There is little doubt anymore that human interference on the planet has reached such invasive levels that we are officially living in the Anthropocene, the “unofficial” era where human activities have impacted the earth’s geology, climate, and ecosystem delivery.
The ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, which so far has claimed over 3 million lives and changed nearly every aspect of human life, shows us just how much nature is more in charge than we are. This invisible enemy put humans and their activities on pause and in some ways healed parts of the environment that we had exhausted. It also showed that recovery is possible.
How did it all start
The first Earth Day was held in 1970, eight years after Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring was published. The book exposed how destructive trends were affecting the sustainability of the planet, raising awareness for the first time of the link between pollution, public health, and every living organism. In 1969, Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin (U.S.A.) took the environmental cause to heart, determined “to shake up the political establishment and force this issue onto the national agenda.” On April 22, 1970, millions of people gathered on the streets of Philadelphia, Chicago, Los Angeles, and other American cities, guided by the inspirational passion of Danis Hayes, a Stanford University student appointed as Earth Day’s national coordinator.
“Earth Day worked because of the spontaneous response at the grassroots level. We had neither the time nor resources to organise 20 million demonstrators and the thousands of schools and local communities that participated. That was the remarkable thing about Earth Day. It organised itself,” said Hayes.
Since that day, Earth Day went global. Activities range from a talking drum chain in Gabon, Africa, to a gathering of hundreds of thousands of people at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The Earth Day Network (EDN) collaborates with more than 17,000 partners and organisations in 174 countries. According to EDN, more than 1 billion people are involved in Earth Day activities, making it “the largest secular civic event in the world.”
GWP is involved in raising awareness and enhancing the knowledge and skills of professionals and youth on water issues – after all, water makes up 70% of the earth! My internship has taught me so much about water and governance, about collaboration, mutual understanding, respect, and showed me how all of us – through hard work and a vision – can contribute to a better world. Global changes are needed to ensure a future for humanity. GWP is showing its dedication, passion, and commitment to enhance this sustainability. To extend our stay on the planet for as long as possible, ensuring the long-term sustainability of water resources is essential.
Earth Day was born because individuals understood that change was needed. Passion, leadership, and vision are key to making global change happen. Marking this day is an opportunity to bring millions of people together to discuss and share knowledge and solutions to problems that involve the whole of humanity without distinctions of color, country, and religion. As is often said, there is no Planet B. This earth is our only home, and our survival depends on making changes today to how we treat this home.