Earth Day: How Sustainability Supports the Fight Against Poverty
Earth Day falls every year on April 22 and aims to diversify, educate, and activate the world in the fight to protect our environment. With rising global temperatures, more frequent extreme weather events, and decreasing amounts of arable land, there is an increasing urgency to not only spread awareness, but to mobilize action to mitigate and even reverse human impact on the environment. Acknowledging the importance of environmental issues is increasingly important in the fight against poverty as well, as those with the least money are often those most affected by environmental changes and disasters.
The History of Earth Day
The first Earth Day was held in 1970, originally starting on college campuses and sparking attention that spread outward into communities across the country. At the time, the public had only begun to realize the impact of industrialization and pollution on the environment, and consequently, human health. Earth Day achieved the unification of many activists who had previously been fighting individually for specific environmental causes. More than 20 million Americans—10% of the total population—participated in that first Earth Day, attending protests and rallies. This demonstration of support led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency that same year, as well as numerous laws aimed to protect the environment and human health. Years later, in 1990, the creators of Earth Day decided to take the movement global, mobilizing more than 200 million people worldwide and bringing environmental issues to the world stage.
Today, more than 190 countries acknowledge Earth Day. With over 1 billion people worldwide recognizing this day of action, it has become the largest secular observance in the world. And this global attention could not come any sooner, as climate-related events and natural disasters displace millions every year. In fact, the World Bank predicts that if we continue at our current rate, more than 200 million people will be displaced by 2050 due to environmental reasons. This could push 130 million people into poverty, undoing decades of development successes.
But it’s not too late. There are many organizations like FINCA and individuals doing their part to protect the environment and even reverse the negative effects of pollution.
How FINCA is Fighting Poverty through Sustainability
Although FINCA’s mission is to alleviate poverty, many environmental issues are deeply intertwined with poverty. And it is a well-known fact that climate change and its related issues disproportionately affect people in poverty. Because of this interconnectedness, FINCA also partners with social enterprises that are doing good for the environment. In fact, FINCA and our partners actively contribute to 15 of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
FINCA partner, East Africa Fruits (EAF), is just one example of a social enterprise we work with that is making a huge environmental impact. Food loss and waste contributes to an estimated 8-10% of global greenhouse gas emissions. And in Africa, post-harvest food loss is nearly 40% due to inadequate supply chains and food storage. To address these issues, EAF implemented an innovative farm-to-market supply chain model to reduce food spoilage, which also increases farmers’ profits. These methods are expected to cut post-harvest food loss in half, reducing the greenhouse gases emitted by spoiled food by the same amount.
Another way FINCA and our partners positively impact the environment is through solar energy. Nearly 800 million people worldwide live in areas that do not have access to electricity. In these regions, people often rely on high-polluting fuels—such as charcoal, kerosene, or wood—to light their homes and cook their food. FINCA actively supports projects and organizations providing solar energy to people living off the grid. Through our efforts to expand solar energy access, FINCA has offset more than 13,000 tones of CO2 emissions. Additionally, 95% clients with a solar home system report experiencing improved health and safety due to the clean energy source.
How You Can Get Involved
While organizations like FINCA and our partners are doing what we can to create a more sustainable world, individuals also play an important role in protecting our environment. Below are just a few ways you can get involved on Earth Day or any day:
- Learn – Take some time to read about an environmental issue affecting your region, country, or the world. Oftentimes there are small things you can implement in your daily life to help mitigate your impact.
- Educate – Many people are not aware of how their actions can impact the environment. Spread awareness by posting on social media or by talking to friends and family about the actions they can take to help.
- Volunteer – Look for a local conservation or education group and ask how you can help. Many organizations host group cleanups and other workshops, seminars, or volunteer opportunities on Earth Day and year-round.
- Donate – If you find a local, national, or international organization doing work you are passionate about, make a donation. In addition to looking for volunteers, organizations always have operational costs and often rely on support from passionate individuals to continue doing their great work.
These are just a few ideas, but there are many more opportunities to get involved in the fight to protect our environment. And while Earth Day is an important day for education and action, it is our hope that people will take what they learn on this day and incorporate it into their daily lives. Because if everyone treats everyday like Earth Day, there is no limit to what we could accomplish.