International Earth Day, April 22
Yes, you guessed it right – it’s another international holiday, which isn’t actually a holiday; you have probably have never heard about and will forget by tomorrow. For all other special days, from Women’s Day to Autism Awareness Day, we remember history, stand up for equality or remember the less fortunate. But what are we exactly supposed to do today? Let’s start from taking a break and looking out of our window. While I’m typing this a fortnight ahead, I’m sitting in my rental room in Milan. It’s eleven p.m. and if I lean out, I can’t see a single star. During the days, I’m surrounded by concrete and I really have to focus in order to see a tree. The air smells smoggy and the noise made by the constant traffic down the road is annoying to say the least. So, if this sounds great to you, then you probably should stop reading. I, instead, grew up surrounded by mountains, lakes and bees. Needless to say, the “big city life” will never be my natural habitat. Ask yourself if we are living to the best of our abilities. If cities could be greener, safer and, ultimately, sustainable.
I'm often asked where I got my passion for environmental issues. It began early. I grew up in the north-eastern part of Italy, up in the mountains and close enough to see a glacier melt, year after year. This very glacier, one of the most important sources of water supply in the region, is said to be gone by 2050. When I first read this ten years ago, it seemed a lifetime ahead. Today, not only am I aware of the fact that time flies, but also that we have done nothing to prevent it from happening.
When I was in middle school, we took an unforgettable trip up to the mountains, near another glacier, and spent a week hiking and researching this magnificent ecosystem. My six-year younger brother went to the same spot three years ago and when we compared the pictures of the glacier we both took during different winters, standing on the very same rock, we were shocked!
Half of the ice was gone.
As Elton John said in one of his songs, “it is easier to walk away, better off to face the facts”. But that’s not what we, as citizen of this earth, can afford to do.
Supporting the environment does not only mean recycling. It begins a long way before, while shopping and deliberately seeking out for less wrapped food.
It starts when we leave the house with a cloth bag and take the bicycle instead of a car.
It’s when we stop complaining that our tap water isn’t as good as the one bottled in plastic.
It’s when we stand up for our rights and beliefs. When we demand free drinking water and safe air, while overcoming the cruelty of their destroyers.
When we wisely choose seasonal vegetables and prefer local organic food.
It initiates when we double check on the production and material of the clothes we buy. When we choose quality over quantity.
It’s when we invest in a green bond, instead of the coal industry. When we choose a bright future over the shady past.
It’s when we fight against the selfishness of leaders and change direction for the sake of our children’s future.
It’s when we book a flight - because I for sure will never tell someone they are travelling too much - across the world, but sustain an environmental project by donating a few bucks for thousands of miles and carbon emissions. Maybe not every time, but once a year.
It’s when we stand up for a healthier community, even if it’s just on campus.
It’s when we make a good use of our right to vote, by supporting politicians that care about climate policies, and when we can’t change politics, then start thinking about our own policies.
It’s when we not only switch off unnecessary lights, but change them with LEDs. When we unplug electronic devices if we don’t plan to use them constantly.
It’s when winter comes and our newly installed thermostat will adapt to our needs, because we are still wearing a sweater, even inside.
It’s when we make sure our energy supplier uses renewable power and if it’s not an option, then change.
It’s when we go on a ski trip in February and not in April, aware of the fact that the snow is natural and days are colder. When we choose less comfort while going on vacation to places with a restricted amount of water.
It’s when we use a shower towel more than once, even when we are away from home and it’s not our turn to do the laundry.
It’s when we go meat free for two days a week, or eat less dairy products, aware of the fact that our food-related carbon footprint is easy to be lowered by our own actions. To say it with Michael Pollan’s words, “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants”.
It’s all about the small things we do on a daily basis, even without noticing. Or the ones we do to save and not because we are planning on supporting the environment.
Last year today, the Paris Agreement was signed by almost 120 countries and among them the superpowers, Obama’s USA and China. Signing is the first step toward a commitment, but it’s still not enough. As Jean-Claude Juncker said back in October "the European Union turned climate ambition into climate action”. Climate change may be a natural phenomenon but it isn’t supposed to be like this: fast, out of control and human‐induced. We, as European, have the pleasure to live in a Union where commitments are keen to lead to actions. Our good old Europe is in a position of strength and compared to other highly polluting regions, it has the ability to stand out and steer the transition to clean energy.
It ultimately all starts from us, proactive citizen. So wake up, get involved and take action!