Earth Day 2020 refuses to be dampened by the coronavirus pandemic and takes the protest online. GCC joins the virtual cause with an insightful video from a field ranger living with the effects of climate change.

Written by Sophie Furley, Chief Editor GCC

Every year on April 22nd, over a billion people unite worldwide to celebrate Earth Day and express their concerns about the state of our planet. This year marks the 50th anniversary of this worldwide event and despite an inability to physically mobilize, the protest is well and truly on(line).

How Earth Day started

In 1970, a graduate student from Harvard, Denis Hayes, organized the very first Earth Day, catching the attention of the media and bringing 20 million Americans – 10% of the US population at the time – into the streets of America to show their concern for the planet. “That first Earth Day was so important, in part because we brought together a huge basket of different issues: urban air pollution, freeways cutting through neighborhoods, leaded paint, DDT, the Santa Barbara oil spill, rivers catching on fire,” explains Hayes on earthday.org.

The very first Earth Day is credited with launching the modern environmental movement which brought about the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts. “The legacy of the first Earth Day was a fundamental restructuring of the American economy. The legislation of the 1970s was possibly the biggest change in how the American industry operates in the nation’s history,” notes Hayes.  

Earth Day 2020 focuses on climate change

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day at a time when billions of people are in lockdown due to COVID-19. This could be seen as a possible dampener to the celebrations for this historic date, but the pandemic also reinforces the message on many levels, as taking care of nature is the first step to preventing future diseases. Biodiversity protection can not only prevent novel diseases from emerging in the first place but also stop them from making the jump to humans.

A rare glimpse of hope

COVID-19 has also brought us a rare glimpse of how the planet can heal in a short space of time, with incredible images of dolphins swimming in the crystal-clear waters of Venice’s canals and clear blue skies above China’s most polluted cities, not to mention the strange site of wild goats sauntering through the main street of Llandudno in Wales, and lions napping on the main roads of South Africa’s Kruger National Park.  

The link between climate change and biodiversity

Climate change and biodiversity are inextricably linked. On the one hand, climate change is a major driver behind the extinction of species as animals struggle to survive with rising temperatures, and on the other, the loss of wildlife stops the spreading of seeds that allows trees to flourish. The disappearance of large animals can also result in shrubs and smaller species of trees taking over from larger trees that are far more efficient at absorbing carbon dioxide. 

GCC’s message for Earth Day

In celebration of Earth Day 2020’s digital edition, GCC is presenting a video interview with Fedrick Ndlovu, a field ranger who has spent over a decade protecting the wildlife in the Timbavati Private Nature Reserve. Ndlovu has witnessed first-hand reduced rainfall, drought, and rising temperatures as well as the effects climate change has had on both animals and humans. His account offers a unique and powerful insight from a small corner of the planet that is suffering like so many other places. 

Earth Day and education

Education was at the heart of the very first Earth Day with students and educators taking a stand for a cleaner planet and this continues today with the Earth Day Network’s education program, whose mission is to increase awareness and build environmental and climate literacy in students around the world.

GCC and education

Education is also at the heart of GCC and its Future Rangers Program, which engages students from the ages of five to 18 to build their appreciation of nature through incentive focused learning. In the Greater Kruger National Park area, unemployment for young people aged 18-24 is over 75%. “No one grows up wanting to resort to violence, poaching or illegal activities to provide for their families. But in these desperate times, poaching has become a somewhat accessible way to secure some type of income” shares GCC Founder Matt Lindenberg. “We believe that education and opportunity creation is the key to reducing poaching and developing the next generation of responsible leaders who will care about our planet and its wildlife.” 

GCC joins Earth Day 2020 in the biggest fight that our planet has ever faced by continuing its important work to bridge the gap between communities and conservation by raising awareness for climate change and biodiversity.  

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