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Earth day's 40th anniversary

Today, April 22nd 2010, is the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, designed to increase awareness of global environmental problems. United States Senator Gaylord Nelson (Wisconsin) founded Earth Day as an environmental teach-in convened in1970. Although Senator Nelson died in 2005, his challenge to care for the environment lives on in the form of legislation (Clean Air Acts) and celebratory as well as educational events with millions of people around the world.

Still about 2.4 billion of the world’s population lack access to clean energy and are exposed to high levels of indoor air pollutants due to cooking and heating their dwellings with primitive stoves or open fires. In more developed countries, many people cannot afford adequate warmth or cooling at a reasonable cost. Fossil fuels ranging from methane to liquid petroleum to coal on which we depend for every day transport and energy, contribute to sedentary lifestyles, chronic disease, and injuries. This is in addition to energy security as a source of international tension, conflict, and outright war.

Concomitant with concerns about renewable energy sources and inefficient burning of biomass fuels is the uncertainty about the effects of climate change on ecosystems and human health. Climate change has occurred constantly throughout Earth’s history in the form of various natural processes, including alterations in ocean-atmosphere circulation, solar variation, earthquakes, and volcanic activity along with the movement of tectonic plates. However, the pressure of human activity in the intense use of Earth’s resources potentially promotes unpredictable and rapid global climate change.

The possible scenarios resulting from temperature extremes are: greater frequency of severe storms, floods, and droughts; increased occurrence of food-borne and water-borne diseases; alteration in the distribution of vector-borne diseases, changes in the seasonality and duration of airborne allergens; and detrimental effects on water resources and agricultural productivity.

The good news is that there are actions and policies we can enact to reduce climate pollution, decrease carbon emission, boost energy efficiency, and improve health. With continued research in areas, such as conservation biology and ecology, we can determine how to best enhance species survival during extended periods of climatic stress. The question is, will we?

Oh, mercy mercy me
Oh, things ain't what they used to be
No, no; Where did all the blue sky go? Poison is the wind that blows, From the north, east, south, and sea
Oh, mercy mercy me
Oh, things ain't what they used to be, No, no; Oil wasted on the oceans and upon our seas, Fish full of mercury
Oh, mercy mercy me
Oh, things ain't what they used to be; No, no; Radiation in the ground and in the sky,Animals and birds who live nearby are dying
Oh, mercy mercy me
Oh, things ain't what they used to be
What about this overcrowded land?
How much more abuse from man can you stand?
---(Mercy, mercy me; "The Ecology song") Marvin Gaye

References and Read-more-about-it:
1. Gaylord Nelson and Earth Day, the making of the modern environmental movement. The living tradition of earth day; Available at: http://www.nelsonearthday.net/earth-day/living-tradition.htm
Accessed April 22, 2010.
2. GRIST, a beacon in the smog. Good news for earth day: We can reduce climate pollution and boost the economy, all at once; by David Roberts. Available at: http://www.grist.org/article/2010-04-20-earth-day-we-can-reduce-climate-pollution-and-boosst-economy/. Accessed April 22, 2010.
3. Wilkinson P, Smith KR, Joffe M, Haines A. A global perspective on energy: health effects and injustices. Lancet. 2007 Sep 15;370(9591):965-78.
4. Bradshaw WE, Holzapfel CM. Light, time, and the physiology of biotic response to rapid climate change in animals. Annu Rev Physiol. 2010 Mar 17;72:147-66.
 

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