Saying that the Earth is important would be an understatement. It’s not just the planet we call home. The Earth is also the only place in the entirety of known space which harbors life. We have an abundance of some of the rarest treasures in the universe. Earth is the only planet we know of which harbors stable bodies of liquid water on its surface.
Our robots are currently searching mars for hints of simple microbial life. Meanwhile, Earth is home to over 8.7 million species. And while many other planets have a magnetic field ours is in a rare perfect position to nurture life to its fullest. All of this and more show just how rare and amazing the Earth really is.
It’s little wonder that we have a holiday dedicated to our amazing planet. The real surprise is that Earth Day is a fairly recent addition to our calendar. The holiday was created in 1970 by Gaylord Nelson. The junior senator from Wisconsin was shocked by the damage caused by a huge oil spill in California. Meanwhile, public awareness of our environment’s fragility was rising thanks to the publication of Silent Spring a few years earlier. The culture as a whole had a strong and continually growing desire to protect our planet from further environmental damage. However, we were largely uncertain how to proceed with that difficult but essential task.
Nelson saw potential in the rising youth-based social movements of the late 1960s. He harnessed that power by joining up with a young activist by the name of Denis Hayes. They picked April 22nd due to the fact that it fell between Spring Break and most student’s final exams. What was initially seen as a small event wound up growing at an exponential rate thanks to media attention. That first Earth Day saw about 10% of the US, 20 million people at that time, demonstrating against environmental destruction. Since that time we’ve seen Earth Day grow from a new event in the US to something quite literally recognized by the entire world.
The holiday has changed a lot over the past 50 years. However, one area deserves extra attention. And that’s the issue of which colors we associate with Earth Day. Most people assume that green is the best, and often only, choice for environmental activism. But think back to the elements we considered when discussing just how amazing the Earth really is.
The earth isn’t only special because of our wealth of beautiful plant life. Earth has a wide variety of precious, and often quite fragile, elements. And each of these elements has certain colors associated with them. We can help spread awareness of these amazing properties by using their colors on Earth Day.
Blue is one of the more easily recognizable environmental associations. Water makes up about 71% of the Earth’s surface. When we gaze at the Earth from space we see it as a majestic blue sphere with smaller pieces of land. However, we’ve also done significant damage to those huge oceans. An estimated 15.5 million tons of microplastics litter the ocean.
We even find microplastics in our drinking water. It should be noted that research into the extent of this contamination and the dangers involved with it are still in a preliminary state. However, we can all agree that it shows just how bad the pollution of both sea and freshwater has become. What’s more, the oceans are facing additional threats from overfishing. Thankfully we’re seeing a fair amount of improvement in overfishing.
We’ve also seen dramatic improvements in our largest lakes. When people created canals to access the Great Lakes they also provided entry to invasive species. The lamprey eel, also known as “the little vampires of the Great Lakes”, has been especially destructive. Thankfully this 70-year long battle has seen some amazing results. The estimated population of lamprey in the Great Lakes is now down to 10% of what it was at its height.
Water is the foundation of life itself. As such it’s one of the central points of the environmental movement. By focusing on the color blue during Earth Day we can show our commitment to this vital resource.
The color yellow reminds us of quite a few things. It’s generally thought of as a cheerful and optimistic color. After all, we usually color smiley faces yellow. People also associate yellow with the sun. These two associations have an obvious link to Earth Day.
Fortunately we’re not polluting the sun. However, there are still some important reasons to draw attention to it during Earth Day. Solar power is an especially important part of environmentalism. Thankfully, the development and deployment of solar power has grown at an impressive rate. Solar power is estimated to have grown 35 times over in the US since 2008. We’ve also seen the cost of solar panels drop by 50% since 2014.
It’s more feasible than ever to use solar for small-scale needs too. Anyone who enjoys hiking and camping should consider the utility of light, foldable, solar panel arrays. Not to mention that they’re a great way to stay prepared for blackouts. The ideal is of course to switch over to solar as much as possible in any given location. But in the end, every little bit helps. And using yellow during Earth Day can help point people to solar resources.
Finally, we can touch on the various earth tones. Could there be any better match for Earth Day than earth tones? These colors will probably call for some explanation. However, that’s a huge plus in the long run. After all, one of the biggest points of Earth Day is to raise discussion. We should ideally highlight aspects of the environment that aren’t discussed very often. And surprisingly enough, we as a culture really don’t talk about good ol’ dirt very often.
Dirt might not seem like a very profound subject at first. But think about what really makes our planet different from everything else we see in our galaxy. Right now we have a variety of machines studying the surface of Mars. And you might have noticed the uniformity across the Martian surface if you’ve kept up with the latest images from the red planet.
The surface of Mars is red due to its iron oxide. This bright red coloring fades as our machines bore further into the material. What’s interesting is that we see the same general layout over most of Mars. If you’ve seen the ground on one part of Mars then you can probably predict the composition elsewhere on the planet. This is due to the fact that the surface of Mars, and any other planet which isn’t a gas giant, has regolith instead of dirt. Earth is unique in the fact that we have, well, actual earth beneath our feet.
True soil could almost be categorized as a living thing. The billions of lifeforms that have contributed to any given patch of soil are represented in its composition. We can of course find animals and insects in any randomly selected patch of soil. However, the true beauty of soil only becomes apparent when we examine it under a microscope. That’s when we’re able to see the bacteria, fungi, archaea, algae and other life which make up healthy soil.
When we look at other planets we see a surface composed of inert matter. This is part of the reason why we can’t simply put seeds on other planets and expect them to grow. The organisms in soil are comparable in many ways to the microbiome in the human digestive system. Humans need a microbiome to properly digest food. Likewise, plants benefit from the complex mixture of lifeforms and nutrients found in soil.
When we use earth tones on Earth Day it helps to remind people of just how important our soil is. After all, we’ve seen what happens when we ignore the overall health of our soil. The American Dust Bowl is nearly 100 years in our past. However, the further it retreats into history the more important it is to remind ourselves of its impact. We need to protect the health of our soil just as much as we need to protect our oceans.
The Importance of Color During Earth Day
We’ve packed a lot of environmental information within just a few colors. This illustrates just how important color can be during Earth Day. Color isn’t just a declaration of intent. It’s also a way to open up larger conversations about the many issues integral to Earth Day. But none of that can happen without your active involvement. Don’t just pick a color. Pick a color based on the conversations which you personally want to engage in.
The colors we’ve looked at are only the basic foundation. Take a moment before Earth Day to really think about the environmental issues closest to your own heart. Now think about what colors are evoked by the causes which mean the most to you. It’s that passion which will guide you to the right color choices. Likewise, it will also ensure that you’re ready to talk about the subject with anyone who shows interest in your choice.
Here’s another holiday taking place the same month as Earth Day: April Fools’ Day.