Earth Day: We’re Fighting Back

Earth Day: We’re Fighting Back

WE GET IT, CLIMATE CHANGE IS BAD, BUT WE HAVE DONE SOME GOOD

We’re all aware by now that the oceans are rapidly rising each year, the arctic regions are gradually transforming into tropical paradises and our blue whales are choking on plastic waste. The topic of global warming and how the human race is treating this planet is finally becoming an international concern and the advocates for climate change have sparked a worldwide conversation. We have come a very long way.

WHERE DID CLIMATE AWARENESS BEGIN?

The year 2000 is really where this story starts for me: The 45th Vice President of the United States, Al Gore, began to raise awareness about global warming. Although Gore did attempt to spread awareness before the 2000s, it was during his election campaign, and while in office, that his message became a topic for discussion, although very few took his concerns seriously. Do we have Gore to thank for where we are at today in terms of the global awareness of climate change? The answer is of course subjective, however, I don’t think he gets enough appreciation for his efforts.

Seeing as it is Earth Day 2019, I thought I would shine a light on just a few of the many things that are currently going on at the international level to help save our beautiful blue planet.

The thing I appreciate most about this list is that most of the people involved in starting, running and funding these efforts are of independent source, meaning there was no government funding. Although some governments in the world are beginning to crack down on global warming, these independent NGOs and companies are all helping the fight to protect our planet in small ways but that can, in turn, result in a major differences. *Please keep in mind that this list is of course of my own observation and may not fully capture every subjective angle of the international efforts to fight global warming, climate change and mass pollution.

1. Artists Lending A Hand

As the conversation surrounding this topic grows, artists have begun to do what artists do best: Comment on what is happening in the world around them through various mediums. One of my favorite contributions made by artists is the recently released music video and song sung by Lil Dicky, written by David Burd, Benjamin Levin, Magnus August Høiberg, Josh Coleman and Jamil Chammas and produced by Benny Blanco and Cashmere Cat entitled “Earth.” Although the lyrics of the video are not as flattering as the message itself, the point gets across nonetheless. In addition to this, the song features over 16 different internationally renowned musicians, that have assisted vocally, in making this magically animated music video a globally trending message about global warming, climate change and mass pollution. You can see the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pvuN_WvF1to

Screen Capture of “Earth” by Lil Dicky

Another beautifully terrifying work of art is The Anthropocene Project by Canadian photographer and artist Edward Burtynsky. I first saw Edward’s work at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, Ontario and completely fell in love with the artist’s dramatic photography. He mainly uses dark commentary and perspectival photography (among other medias) to demonstrate human beings’ affect on planet Earth. Check out some of his work in effort to raise awareness here: https://www.edwardburtynsky.com/projects/photographs

2. The Amazing Ocean Cleanup Companies

There are two (of many) companies that have been founded in an effort to clean-up Earth’s oceans; These companies are 4Ocean and The Ocean Cleanup. Although they’re both geared towards the objective of cleaning up Earth’s oceans, they both have a very different mission on how to do that and each with its own advantages and disadvantages.

4Ocean has 24/7 crews cruising the oceans of the world, collecting primarily plastic waste and then repurposing this waste into bracelets for profit. Each bracelet contains approximately 1 pound of waste that was cleaned up from the ocean and repurposed. You can check them out here: https://4ocean.com/collections/all-products

On the other hand, The Ocean Cleanup is an NGO, which crowdfunded over 2 million USD in 2014 from supporters in over 160 countries around the world with the goal of engineering a naturally-forced waste pickup system that would independently sail the seas collecting waste. This amazing system is now making its way towards the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which is located between the US states of Hawaii and California. The cool thing is that, if you had enough money, you could actually fund your own cleanup system! The only question I have is: What are they going to do with all of this plastic once they collect it? You can check out a live feed of the Ocean Cleanup System #1 here: https://www.theoceancleanup.com/system001/

Screen Capture of an “Illustration of the forces acting on the system” taken from the Ocean Cleanup official website.

3. The “We Will Plant a Tree for Every…” Popular Marketing Campaigns

I’m not sure if they were the 1st to do it but a company entitled “TenTree” has been around for a while now and seems to be one of the first to think of this genius way to make money while helping to save the planet. TenTree was started in 2012 by a group of Canadian friends from Saskatchewan. The very optimistic promise made by the company is to plant ten trees for every product you purchase. Although the products are quite expensive, people will generally disregard the high price tag  because they know that there money will go to good use.

Companies like TenTree have started to create a trend and we are now seeing more and more companies following in their footsteps. For example, you may have seen recent news updates about these drones that are planting trees: https://www.droneseed.co/      

4. The Societal Pressure on Corporations to Reduce Plastic Packaging

It has become a growing trend for corporations to begin reducing their plastic packaging usage. One of the best examples I thought of is Starbuck’s banning straws from their stores and introducing their “recyclable strawless lids.” There is of course always a debate to have about the effective nature of these initiatives and if they will really solve the issue, however, I for one am glad to see that these massive corporations are finally developing ways to continue to sell their products but in a more eco-friendly way. https://www.starbucks.ca/responsibility/environment/recycling   

To add onto this trend, one of the largest contributors to the problem, grocery stores, are gradually beginning to introduce ways to safely shop in their stores plastic free! Metro grocery stores will become one of the first grocery chains to introduce plastic reduction initiatives, such as the “Bring Your Own Container” option for consumers. Check it out here: https://montreal.ctvnews.ca/zero-waste-metro-grocer-to-allow-shopping-with-reusable-containers-1.4380174

5. DocuWareness       

There have been some excellent documentaries released in recent years that have made what is causing global warming easier to understand. These documentaries are very good at taking the massive amounts of scientific data, research and information and forming it all into a film or a series that anyone can then learn from. Maybe this is what Al Gore was missing? The ability to communicate his message in a way that the masses understand.

An Illustration of Planet Earth Slowly Being Destroyed.


One of the best examples I can give is the newly released documentary series One Strange Rock, which features actor Will Smith as the host. Netflix’s description of the series is the following: “This series follows eight astronauts who share their unique perspectives on Earth, the fragile and beautiful planet we call home.” There it is, right there in the show’s description: Earth is fragile. Although it’s not the main theme of the series, what One Strange Rock is really trying to say is that our planet and its resources are not unlimited, in fact, the very opposite is true: They are very limited and we are slowly running out of… well… everything. If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend watching this! https://www.netflix.com/ca/title/81071666

Nasrin Sotoudeh

Nasrin Sotoudeh

Last month, an Iranian human rights lawyer named Nasrin Sotoudeh was sentenced to 38 years in prison and 148 lashes. Arrested last June, Sotoudeh was accused of: Insulting Iran’s supreme “leader,” circulating propaganda and spying, as reported by The Guardian. Sotoudeh had previously been incarcerated in years past for similar crimes.

Sotoudeh is known for defending women who have protested Iran’s compulsory headscarf laws, as well as other human rights defenders. In 1985, the hijab became mandatory for all women in the country, regardless of religious beliefs. Recently, women have been protesting this law publically by removing their headscarves and in some cases, carrying them on sticks and posting images to social media, which occasionally go viral. These images and other relevant media have aided in spreading awareness on the issue beyond the country’s borders. Although the sentence for a woman who removes her hijab typically does not exceed two months, if she is believed to be encouraging others to follow suit, she may face up to a decade in prison.

In 1936, ruler Reza Shah Pahlavi banned the hijab and chador in a bid to westernize the country. For some, this caused great discomfort and the hijab and chador became symbols of the revolution to come years later. Some argue that the religious clothing represents aspects of Iranian culture, but to many women living under the mandatory hijab law, such as Shaparak Shajarizadeh, the hijab represents female oppression and infringement of citizens’ rights.

In an interview conducted by Celine Cooper, a Montreal based journalist, Shaparak Shajarizadeh details her own personal experience as an activist against Iran’s oppressive hijab law.

“Lots of people say that there are more important issues than compulsory hijab. But for me, it is not just about having a veil on your head or having some sort of dress code. It’s about violence. Iranian women always have this shadow of fear when we are out. You don’t feel safe.” -Shaparak Shajarizadeh, Iranian activist and defendee of Nasrin Sotoudeh

Whether it be banning certain clothing pieces, or forcing it upon the individuals, policing people’s clothing choices is oppressive and indicative of a government’s lack of respect for their country’s citizens’ rights and freedoms. The harsh and barbaric sentenced being delivered to activists in Iran who dare to protest against the country’s oppressive laws is deplorable and deserved the attention of other nations across the globe that believe in the preservation of human rights for all.