The International Mother Earth Day celebration is an annual special day declared by the United Nations General Assembly through resolution A/RES/63/278, adopted in 2009. It is a parallel and complimentary celebration with the Earth Day observance each year on the same date.
It is in consonance with the long-term sustainable development goals of the United Nations. These include the objective of achieving just balance between the environmental/ecological needs and the human needs such as economic activities.
Pacifist origin of the celebration
Environmental movements, advocating sustainable development and lower carbon footprints started during the hippy decade between 1960s and 1970s. It started as part of the pacifist, anti-Vietnam war protests during the decade.
Two Earth Day celebrations
Earth Day is almost identical with the International Mother Earth Day because they have similar objectives and date of celebration.
However, the first predates the latter by 29 years. Earth Day was first celebrated in 1970, twice! The first celebration was held on March 21, 1970, marking the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere. It was proposed in 1969 by peace activist John McConnell during the UNESCO Conference in San Francisco, USA. The second celebration occurred on April 22, 1970 as an environmental teach-in event founded by US Senator Gaylord Nelson.
Expansion of the celebration
Initially, Earth Day was only celebrated in the US it was later launched as an international movement in 1990 by Denis Hayes. He organized events in 141 countries, kicking off a global annual celebration. Since then, the day was adopted by many cause-oriented environmental groups and by government institutions.
More than 193 countries today host events annually in celebration of Earth Day. Photo-art exhibits, film screenings, lectures, book launchings, musical performances, and conferences are among the activities held each year in different localities around the world.
The resolution invites UN member states, international organisations, regional organisations, civil society, non-government organisations (NGOs), and other stakeholders to participate in the annual celebration. Some communities extend the celebration into Earth Week and a few localities observe Earth Month.
Among the first landmark global initiatives on environmental advocacy was the UN Conference on the Human Environment held in Stockholm in 1972. During the conference, it was emphasised that humans, other species and the ecology are all connected and interdependent. The World Environment Day (June 5) and the UN Environment Programme were established during the conference.
Other crucial milestones of the environmental movement were the 1992 Agenda 21, otherwise known as the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, and the Statement of principles for the Sustainable Management of Forests. These were adopted by 178 member-states during the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 3 to 14 June 1992.
Climate change and the sixth mass extinction
The current threat of climate change prompted many nations to reduce their carbon footprint by resorting to renewable energy sources and cleaner industrial processes. Humanity is now at a juncture, facing another turning point in the earth’s natural history.
This is what scientists call as the Sixth Mass Extinction Event, otherwise known as the Holocene Extinction. Of the estimated 1.8 million existing species, around 150 to 200 species become extinct, mainly due to anthropogenic causes. This is more than 1,000 times greater than the normal background extinction.
Human ecological impact and prospects
Earth has been existing for at least 4.5 billion years and our species has been existing for at least 200,000 years. Human civilisation has been industrialised for the past 200 years only. Our existence as a species is but a twinkling of an eye compared to the age of the earth. Despite of our very recent evolutionary emergence, we are causing serious existential threat to other species and to the earth’s ecosystem itself.
On the other hand, we also have the technological capacity to protect this planet. It will take global and collective will to achieve ecological balance and sustainable economic growth. The International Mother Earth Day serves as a reminder of our moral responsibility to this planet, our only home in this vast cosmos thus far.
(NOTE: this article was first published online on https://www.itallcounts.org/)