Earth Day 2019

April 22nd is Earth Day.

It’s similar to Earth Hour, but lasts the whole day… and this one I remembered ahead of schedule, unlike Earth Hour last month which I almost missed.

This year on this day I expect to be cycling through the Peak District to visit my Auntie in Sheffield, having set off a few days earlier from home on Anglesey. I created this post a few weeks earlier after I stumbled across a lonely video on Youtube. The first half of the video talks about the writer’s Environmental Ethics Class project that lead the way to her creating the song that is found in the second half which I have linked directly to below.

The song recognises the various connections the problems in our world have; “environmental issues… women, minorities, the poor, and others.” I say it’s a lonely video because it has received very few views, likes or comments since it was uploaded a number of years ago – this is a shame; it’s a great song and is worthy of far more attention, even if it is something that was created all that time ago.

In the video’s introduction it is said that “…many songs exist urging people to wake up and do something about the impact we’re having on our environment…” Indeed, the song that always comes to my mind is Michael Jackson’s Earth Song (1995). No matter what you think or believe about the King of Pop his chart-topping track says a lot about this topic.

In the United Kingdom, “Earth Song” debuted at number one on the UK Singles Chart, where it remained for six weeks throughout December 1995 — beating the U2/Brian Eno project Passengers to win the Christmas number one spot — and into early 1996… The song also took the number one position in Iceland, Italy, Spain, Sweden … Switzerland […and] Germany… [Wikipedia]

A few years earlier Michael had released his “Heal the World” track and founded a charitable foundation of the same name.

The “Heal The World” short film furthered Michael Jackson’s goal of making art and music that would inspire worldwide peace, love and tolerance, by showcasing a diverse group of children united in their abilities to love unconditionally and their wishes for a brighter future.

As part of his Dangerous World Tour (1992-1993)… Jackson performed to 3.5 million people in 69 concerts with all profits from the concerts going to the Heal the World Foundations, raising millions of dollars in relief and airlifting some 46 tons of supplies to war-torn Sarajevo. (Wikipedia)

Perhaps Michael Jackson isn’t top of the list of charitable artists, but he’s the one that comes to my mind. Live Aid (1985) was certainly big, apparently raising around £50 million at the time, but it was never really on my radar since I was too young.

Man in the Mirror is another great song of Michael Jackson’s where he calls upon us all to “make that change”. Blaming politics, or the politicians, or the big corporations, or anything seemingly out of our control is often just an excuse not to make an effort, or more of an effort. While reading a book on the topic of NLP – Neuro Linguistic Programming I recently uncovered some of the areas of my own life where I make excuses for lacking action, not necessarily environmental, but sure, I could do more there too.

How will you spend your Earth Day?

Edit. In the run up to Earth Day the event even got a mention on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour today (Tuesday 16th April):

In the run up to World Earth Day next week on the 22nd April we speak to two women who are using their skills to solve some of our environmental problems. Dr Fanya Ismail has invented a waterproof material* that will be used in disposable coffee cups which removes the need to use plastic, and Dr Carmen Hijosa has invented a natural textile made from pineapple leaf fibre which can be used as a leather substitute. Jane asks them how and why they created their products.

2.5 billion disposable cups a year end up in UK landfill. I often consider there is a problem in society with the whole take-away attitude and the ‘need’ for drinks on the go; people walking around with ‘paper’ cups of coffee, complete with plastic lids, glued to their hand, like some sort of addict’s crutch.

*the write up says she invented but Dr Fanya Ismail pointed out that ‘sol-gel‘ is already a widely recognised process and she is just pushing for it to be used to make paper cups waterproof instead of them being lined with plastic (making them impractical to recycle). The sol-gel process for this application is apparently low-energy. Personally, I generally refuse to drink tea or coffee from a disposable cup.

The leather substitute is an interesting one. Firstly, while there are those of us who drink cow’s milk and eat beef there should always be a supply of natural leather which should be made use of; it’s a by-product of the farming industry like using manue instead of artificial fertilisers (there are 1.5 billion cows in the world). Pleather or PU Leather is harmful to the environment and like non-biodegradable or unrecyclable ‘paper’ cups should be avoided.

The production of the PVC used in the production of many artificial leathers requires a plasticizer called a phthalate to make it flexible and soft. PVC requires petroleum and large amounts of energy thus making it reliant on fossil fuels. During the production process carcinogenic byproducts, dioxins, are produced which are toxic to humans and animals. Dioxins remain in the environment long after PVC is manufactured. When PVC ends up in a landfill it does not decompose like genuine leather and can release dangerous chemicals into the water and soil.

Dr Carmen Hijosa’s product, Piñatex, made from pineapple leaves might have you believe it would be a better option, but think again, Wikipedia includes this damming paragraph:

Piñatex is currently not biodegradable. It is composed of a mixture of pineapple leaves, PLA (Polylactic acid), and petroleum-based resins.[1] PLA, also known as bio-plastic, is sourced from renewable resources and is commonly labeled ‘biodegradable’. However, the United Nations Environmental Programme issued a report in 2015 concluding, “The adoption of plastic products labelled as ‘biodegradable’ will not bring about a significant decrease either in the quantity of plastic entering the ocean or the risk of physical and chemical impacts on the marine environment, on the balance of current scientific evidence.”[9] Petroleum and its byproducts, such as the one used in Piñatex, are disastrous for climate change and other environmental concerns (see Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change).

It bothers me when companies plough time, effort, money and resources into a product that is pushed as being good for the planet, when the end product is either not what it’s cracked-up to be or has harmful consequences.

 

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