When Earth Day was first launched on April 22, 1970 in the United States, it was done to tackle the epidemic of smog that was choking cities in the US and around the globe. And in fact, the action it mobilized helped push landmark environmental legislation through the US Congress just months later, including the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act. Since then, the holiday has spread to nearly every corner of the world, and brings together over a billion people to raise awareness about the environment.
For 2019, the focus is on protecting species. Manyscientists say that our behavior has caused the world to enter the “sixth mass extinction.” As The Guardian reports, nearly half of the 177 species of mammals surveyed have lost more than 80% of their distribution between 1900 and 2015, and insect populations are beginning to collapse at alarming rates, ultimately threatening the viability of agriculture on a mass scale.
Earth Day 2019 is asking people around the world to join its “Protect our Species” campaign, whose goals are to raise awareness, achieve public policy victories to protect broad groups of species and their habitats, and encourage individual actions that can have a positive impact on climate change and deforestation.