If we perform a simple search on ‘different ways to celebrate Earth Day,’ we’d likely land on colorful infographics with tips and advice such as recycle, turn off the lights when you leave a room, conserve water, switch to reusable bags, make a birdhouse, plant a tree, or cut down on your screen time and connect with nature. While these small acts all have a positive impact on the environment and should be encouraged, we’re reducing the issue of climate change into an overly simplistic idea. Here are a few common misconceptions about climate change and what we should do to protect our planet:
- Environmental Justice — Climate change has never been just about the environment. It is connected to all our systems of oppression. It is important that we understand how the issue of climate change intersects with social justice issues like global security, food sovereignty, health hazards, and forced migration. Underprivileged and underserved communities tend to live in places that are worst hit by the impacts of climate change, and their poverty often exacerbates their vulnerability. Our actions and personal choices can have a profound impact on the lives of those who live thousands of miles away.
- Climate Emergency — The impacts of climate change are not so distant in time. They don’t only concern our future generations. In fact, the climate crisis has been disproportionately affecting Indigenous peoples and underprivileged communities around the world every single day. The climate crisis is an emergency. We shouldn’t wait any longer to combat climate change. The time is now.
- Environmental Impact of Our Actions — While all eco-conscious actions should be encouraged, some have relatively higher impact than others. According to a recent analysis by The Guardian, “taking a long-haul flight generates more carbon emissions than the average person in dozens of countries around the world produces in a whole year.” In other words, reducing unnecessary international travels would be way more ‘eco-friendly’ than, for example, switching to an energy-saving light bulb. Factory farming and overfishing are also found to be among the biggest contributors to climate change. Shifting towards a more plant-based diet would be way more effective than planting one tree in your garden.
So what are RISE’s recommended ways to celebrate Earth Day?
There’s no perfect answer to this question. Keep recycling and using that reusable bag, but also educate yourself about issues of climate justice, learn new ways of mitigating your environmental footprint and inspire people around you to do the same. Here are some resources we recommend about the climate emergency:
- Climate Justice Alliance
- Climate Action Network for International Educators (CANIE)
- Tourism Declares a Climate Emergency
- Tomorrow’s Air
- Climate Justice, UN Sustainable Development Goals https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/blog/2019/05/climate-justice/
- Renee Cho (September 22, 2020). Why Climate Change is an Environmental Justice Issue. Columbia Climate School. https://news.climate.columbia.edu/2020/09/22/climate-change-environmental-justice/
- PBS (February 6, 2020). Factory farms provide abundant food, but environment suffers. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-018-07118-9
- David Tickler et al. (2018). Modern slavery and the race to fish. Nature.com https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-018-07118-9
The RISE Travel Institute is committed to educating travelers about the interconnectedness of all issues surrounding sustainable travel, including climate change and climate justice through our Pilot Program. To learn more about these pressing topics and how you can enroll, please visit our website.
Written by Vincie Ho
Vincie (she/her/hers), a humane educator and social justice advocate, founded RISE Travel Institute in June 2020 with the commitment to engage young people in important conversations around human rights, animal protection and environmental sustainability in the context of travel. She is also the creator of Paths Crossing, a card game designed to foster cross-cultural connections and inspire mindful travel decisions. She has been involved with Impact Travel Alliance since 2018 and currently holds the position of Chapter Engagement Lead on their global team.
Before Vincie started working in the nonprofit world, she was a university French lecturer and linguist for over a decade. As an academic, she had the opportunity to travel around the world for conferences and fieldwork. In 2010, she left academia to work in the area of refugee empowerment in Senegal, a transformative experience that motivated her to pursue a second career in international peace and human rights, as well as sustainable travel.
Vincie has a PhD in Linguistics from the University of Hong Kong and a Master of Arts degree from University College London. She has also obtained various graduate certificates and diplomas from the Institute for Humane Education and New York University in the United States, the United Nations University in Japan, and l’Université de Franche-Comté in France. She is based in the Greater New York City Area.