Earth Day 2024: 5 Key Facts

Earth Day 2024: 5 Key Facts April 18, 2024

Earth Day is April 22nd. Let’s all do our part and be good stewards to the beautiful world God has given us. Courtesy of www.greenqueen.com.hk

Earth Day is a celebration dedicated to environmental awareness that falls annually on April 22nd. Earth Day was founded in 1970 by Gaylord Nelson, a Wisconsin Senator, who was concerned about the effect pollution was having on the environment. As the climate debate rages on in the world today, we need to remember that wherever you stand on this debate, it is important to be good stewards of the environment that God has given us. What are some of the ways we can do this? Let’s take a look.

Is The Climate In A Crisis?

That is the hot debate. There are numbers on both sides of this question so I would say that we don’t really know. Last year I had published a paper titled Climate Change: How Can We Better Care for God’s Creation? The main point was the debate on climate change. Many people feel this is proven science, and equally many people feel this is a hoax. There are valid arguments on both sides, but I have to believe that the truth is somewhere in the middle. That does not mean we can’t be good stewards of our environment and take care of God’s creation. In the very first line in Genesis 1:1, God tells us:

“In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth,”  and then later on in Genesis 1:28:

“God blessed them and God said to them: Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that crawl on the earth.” giving man the responsibility to take care of the earth and all the living creatures on it.

So clearly, this is our charge.

The Catholic Church teaches us (from usccb.org):

  • All humans have a responsibility to the land and all living beings, including fellow humans
  • People are not to simply use it as they want but rather to protect God’s creation so future generations may benefit from it
  • Through being stewards, humanity shows and and displays its thanks to God as well as acknowledging that without God nothing would have been possible

5 Key Earth Day Facts

  • There have been 377 weather and climate disasters since 1980 – these include droughts, flooding, hurricanes, wildfires, and tornados
  • There are 400 trees for every person on earth (based on a 2015 study)
  • Close to 8 million metric tons of plastic go into the ocean annually – that is staggering
  • The U.S. generates 4.9 pounds of waste per person every day – 1,788 pounds of waste per year per person 
  • The earth is estimated to be approximately 4.5 billion years old – surface temperature records have only been kept since approximately 1880

Supporting data can be accessed by clicking here.

So How Do I Make A Difference?

There are a number of ways that we as Catholics can help make a difference in our environment. Looking at the 5 key facts there are some things we can help control and some we obviously can’t, but if each one of us makes the effort to do our part, we can help drive impact:

  • Most plastic is not biodegradable and takes up to 450 years to decompose in a landfill – as a result, plastic ends up everywhere – especially in the oceans. We will use plastic, that is a given, but can we minimize our use of plastic? Reusable cups can help make a dent in the use of plastics. I saw a note that based on 2022 numbers, just 1.2% of Starbucks sales were in re-usable cups and starting January 3, 2024 customers can begin to order their beverages in their own reusable cups. This may not be as convenient, but we need to do our part. When we do use plastic, recycle (although ensure these items are cleaned properly or the *entire* load of recyclable materials can end up in a landfill) as much as you can. Paper can and should be recycled on a regular basis as well.
  • Cutting down on our waste is another way we are able to help contribute as stewards of the environment. As you can see from the chart below paper, plastics, and food make up 54.2% of landfill material based on 2023 data:
Courtesy of dumpsters.com
  • Food can be recycled by creating a home composting bin (no cooked food, fish, meat, or dairy products), buying food items in the correct quantities or storing them for leftovers, avoiding unnecessary cooking, and checking your appetite. Doing so benefits the food waste problem as well as your own waist …..:). There are also organizations like “Rethink Food Waste NY” that provide free food waste solutions and assistance. Please check in your areas for similar organizations.
  • Plant a tree(s) if you have the space. Trees improve our air quality by filtering dust and pollutants (ozone, carbon monoxide, and sulfur dioxide). Trees also help protect communities against flash floods and landslides by stabilizing the soil and absorbing water. They also help the wildlife with food and shelter.
  • Please take severe weather warnings seriously. If you are told to take cover or evacuate do so immediately. The best-case scenario is you take shelter or evacuate and nothing happens. I think we all know the worst-case scenario.
  • As I am sure everyone has heard there is a lot of talk related to electric vehicles (EVs). If you can afford an EV and feel it helps you to do your part to be a good steward verify the EV infrastructure in your and surrounding areas. There may be a little more planning involved when thinking about long trips. Hybrids can be a great alternative, or just drive your gas-powered vehicle a little slower to cut down on emissions.

If you choose to engage in the raging debate over climate change, that’s obviously your call. At a minimum, we can do some things just to help us take care of the earth God has given us. Let’s at least do that.

Comments are not only encouraged but welcome. If you have something important to say, then I feel it is important enough to read it and acknowledge/respond to your thoughts. I will reply as soon as I can.

God Bless

 

About Dennis McIntyre
In my early years I was a member of the Methodist church where I was baptized as a child and eventually became a lector for the church. I always felt I was a very faith-filled person, but that something was missing. My wife is Catholic and my children were baptized as Catholic and this helped me to find what I was looking for - to be part of something so much bigger than myself walking together with Jesus. I was welcomed into the Catholic faith and received the sacraments as a full member of the Catholic Church in 2004. I am a Spiritual Director, and very active in ministry serving as a Lector and Eucharistic Minister in addition to providing spiritual direction. I have spent time working with the sick and the terminally ill in local hospitals and Hospice Care centers and found these ministries to be very difficult, but extremely rewarding. You can read more about the author here.
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