Our spinning planet dazzles us with endless levels of amazement each and every day.
Our blue planet holds the distinction of being the densest in the universe while its multiple layers include a two-tiered core swirling with molten iron and nickel. The earth holds nearly 1.5 billion cubic kilometers of water and nearly two million species of animals and plants. The earth has every type of topography imaginable, from the hilly woods of Pittsburgh’s city parks to the sandy dunes of the Arabian deserts, and on to the shining icy peaks of Greenland.
Earth is a gorgeous, thriving sphere of life that gives us a home, provides our food, and allows us to experience all it means to be human. With all of its many adaptive powers, why have we designated April 22 as Earth Day, and is it really necessary to dedicate a day each year to examining our relationship with our host planet?
If the earth could communicate in our language, it would likely write “YES” in letters a thousand feet high against the backdrop of a glowing sunset over Schenley Park.
Each human has an astounding impact on our planet. There are over 7.5 billion of people on earth, with four babies born every second, bringing untold happiness to our lives. During the 20th century alone, the world population grew from 1.65 billion to 6 billion.
With this joy of life comes increased expectations of the earth. Every one of us requires shelter and sustenance, all of which takes a toll on our planet. The sheer volume of our worldwide consumption is eye opening, with half a million new television sets sold each day, and millions of gallons of fuel flowing through our nearly two billion cars. We consume 11 million pounds of food every second.
How is our planet faring with all that the modern world asks of it? There are undoubtedly challenges, many of which the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy and regional environmental non-profits work every day to address. Worldwide, nearly one and a half million hectares of forest have been lost so far in 2018, and two million hectares have disappeared to soil erosion. Acreage of parkland to which the Parks Conservancy brings its expertise and dedication has increased during the past year, adding Emerald View Park’s 257 acres to its fold.
Toxic chemicals released so far this year top 2.8 million tons, while the past year saw the Frick Environmental Center – designed to be LEED platinum, Living Building Challenge certified and one of the greenest buildings on earth – open in Frick Park.
While the start of the modern environmental movement is deservedly credited to Pittsburgher Rachel Carson and her classic 1962 tome Silent Spring, Wisconsin senator Gaylord Nelson gave life to the first Earth Day as we know it in 1970. He organized a “teach in” that brought attention to a massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California. Its intent of acknowledging environmental challenges, coming together to find solutions, and celebrating the natural world has carried through worldwide events each April 22 for the past 47 years.
Nearly 12 trillion tons of C02 emissions were been released into our atmosphere to date in 2018, and the number of people with no access to clean drinking water increases at a rate of two each second that passes. These fantastical numbers underscore the vital work the Parks Conservancy does in its environmental education programs, green infrastructure and stormwater management work. Yearly, thousands of people gain learn about nature through our programs, and millions of gallons of stormwater are absorbed into parklands as a result of dozens of carefully planned green infrastructure installations.
While ease of world travel and shifting climates have enabled destructive invasive plants and disease to spread in our region, our arborists, ecologists, educators, and volunteers work year-round to combat them and keep our city’s parks among the envy of the country.
This Earth Day, know that while there is still much to do, there's plenty to celebrate. Our park system is world-class incredible, our riverfronts thriving with life, and there is an increasing interest in solar-powered homes and businesses. Groups like Zero Fossil Energy Outfitters and Green Mountain Energy – which use sustainable energy sources like sun, water, and wind power – and buildings like the Frick Environmental Center take advantage of the trillions of megawatt hours of clean solar energy that strikes our earth each year.
Each small action made with the good of our environment in mind yields astounding results. On Earth Day, venture outside, learn about and experience the natural world, and promise it you will do all you can to keep it healthy, vibrant, and beautiful.
Join us for Earth Day 2018 at Frick Environmental Center! See the full schedule of events here.
Statistics found at www.worldometers.info.