Market Insights

Earth Day: A Primer and Call to Action

April 21, 2023 by Kevin Clemens

Fifty-four years after the first Earth Day, great progress has been made, but great challenges remain.

Happy Earth Day—the 54th annual celebration of the environment in 193 countries by more than 1 billion people. Organized in 1970 by Senator Gaylord Nelson, a Democrat from Wisconsin, the first Earth Day was a big success. Nelson was inspired by the anti-Vietnam War protests of the 1960s and believed that if Americans could come together to protest a war, they could come together to protest the destruction of their environment.


Earth Day

Earth Day. Image used courtesy of Wikimedia Commons TheOriginalSoni, CC BY-SA 3.0 


During the first Earth Day, more than 20 million participated in events across the United States, raising awareness of environmental issues and galvanizing support for environmental protection. The emphasis then was on cleaning up air and water pollution, and the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Clean Air Act, and the Clean Water Act resulted from the actions of those early environmentalists.


Earth Day Theme: Invest in Our Planet

Earth Day 2023's official theme is Invest In Our Planet, and the focus of Earth Day has shifted from air and water pollution to climate change, and the stakes are higher than ever.  The name of the game is now reducing greenhouse gas emissions. We need to transition to clean energy sources, like solar and wind power. We must change our lifestyles to reduce our carbon footprint by making our homes and businesses more energy efficient. Our transportation system needs to move into electrification to eliminate fossil fuels and the carbon dioxide (CO2) they release.

Unfortunately, we haven’t been doing very well. The past weeks have exhibited extreme weather, with record temperatures of 45.4 degrees Celsius (113.7 Fahrenheit) in Thailand and a heatwave in India, with 13 people dying of heatstroke. Fort Lauderdale experienced record rainfall on April 12, 2023, when the city received 25.91 inches of rain in 24 hours, breaking the previous record of 14.59 inches, set in 1979. The heavy rain caused widespread flooding, with some areas receiving up to 3 feet of water. 


Power plant emissions

Power plants emit carbon dioxide from fossil fuels. Image used courtesy of Pixabay


According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the current carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere is 421 parts per million (ppm)—up from 400 ppm in 2013, and it is the highest level in human history. Unsurprisingly, the increase in carbon dioxide levels is due to the burning of fossil fuels. Fossil fuel consumption has increased by more than 50 percent since 1990.

Changes on the Horizon

Earth Day is a reminder of the role we play in protecting the planet. We need to make changes in our own lives and demand change from our leaders. We must invest in clean energy, energy efficiency, and sustainable technologies. And we need to work together to create a more sustainable future for our planet.

Here are some specific things that can lead to change:

  • Reduce energy use by turning off lights and appliances when not in use
  • Drive less and walk, bike, or take public transportation more often
  • Eat less meat and more plant-based foods
  • Recycle and compost
  • Support businesses committed to sustainability
  • Get involved in local environmental organizations
  • Vote for candidates who support environmental protection


Big Picture Challenges

One of the biggest challenges is the rise of new technologies using vast amounts of energy. Bitcoin mining, for example, requires as much energy as a small country. The large data centers that power growing artificial intelligence (AI) could total 10 percent of global energy consumption by 2030. There is hope that AI could solve environmental problems, but we have to ensure we aren’t harming the environment by finding ways to use AI sustainably. 

The future of the planet is in our hands. Let's make this Earth Day the year we take action to protect our home.