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Earth Day 2021

“I think that I shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree”

                                                                                               Joyce Kilmer

Woman planting mangroves

22nd April, Earth Day! The very name conjures up a picture of serenity. Tall, robust trees, luxuriant undergrowth, streams, rivers and lakes and thriving native biodiversity…birds and animals creating an orchestra of forest music.

Restore Our Earth is the theme this year. And we do need to restore our earth. That is what Soroptimists the world over are doing in our Centenary year; we are planting trees wherever we can—on an available plot of land, along the sea shore, along river banks and roads. What better way to restore our earth and restore the lost biodiversity? That is what the first Soroptimists had done a hundred years ago, not because the earth was facing Climate Disaster but simply because the Soroptimist sisters of Oakland, California loved trees and felt driven to conserve the great Redwood Forest which had been severely impacted by largescale felling. With their grit and determination, our fore-runners made the very first Soroptimist environmental project a success.

51 years ago in 1970, the 22nd of April had been declared Earth Day to promote Environmental and Climate awareness and literacy, to steer action towards conservation, regeneration and bio-diversity, green cities and greening the earth, global clean-up by ridding the earth of plastic and pollution.

Since 2018 Greta Thunberg, and way back in 1992 at the Earth Summit at Rio, twelve-year-old Severn Suzuki have been crying themselves hoarse in outrage at how we, adult human beings were destroying our own home without a thought for our children or our children’s children. Do we have a Planet B to call home? How can we be so callous about our actions which have such far reaching effects? Restore our earth is the crying need of the hour! In fact, we should have done something as of yesterday.

Children Planting a Sapling

We can do what the women of the Chipko movement did in India. They prevented trees from being felled down by hugging them tight. No one can axe a tree with a human being clinging to it, right? But we need to do more. Each one of us can do our own little two penny bit to restore our earth. We can start planting native trees in our own garden. Why native trees? Native trees have acclimatized to the weather conditions over millennia and are best for the diverse animals and birds that abound in that particular area. They are generally pest free and disease free, thus needing less attention and human intervention. They do not need pesticide or even fertilizer for enhanced growth. The chemical run-off and the carbon footprints are therefore much reduced.

A very relevant way to celebrate Earth Day is to educate our children. Create awareness about the benefits of all things natural and the ways to minimize global warming. Youngsters can be asked to plant a tree each and take charge of its well-being. Building a bird bath in a shady part of a garden allows children (the next generation of adults) to become fond of birds. Communities can be encouraged to photograph these birds for exhibitions. Beekeeping is another activity that reaps enormous benefits for the environment, to restore our earth. Awareness, education and love of nature go hand in hand.

The COP 26, the Conference of Parties, the United Nations Climate Change Conference 2021 due in November 2021 at Glasgow, has as one of its themes: “Nature – to safeguard and restore natural habitats and ecosystems to preserve the planet’s biodiversity”. Perhaps we can reasonably hold that some progress has been achieved since the Conference of Parties at the Paris Agreement in December 2015. In the 21st Century, global temperature must not rise beyond 2 degrees Celsius over and above that of the pre-industrial era. Have we been able to check global warming?

Earth Day demands our attention! If we do not heed the warning signs now, then, when shall we? Thankfully, Soroptimists are leading from the front as our first SI Sisters had done in 1921, and we Soroptimists are all geared up to #PlantTreesforaBrilliantFuture.

Shukla Chattopadhyay
PAC, SI South Kolkata