News·9 min read

Earth Day

Apr 22, 2019

It’s Earth Day. Time to take a hard look at how the planet is ch-ch-ch-ch-changing.

The Story

Climate change is a problem. And the Earth is saying ‘haaaalp.’

The Background

Here's your primer on what climate change even is and how it got so bad. Read or listen, you do you.

When did people start getting serious about helping Mother Earth?

The 1960s. It’s when people started to stop, collaborate, and listen about the human impact on pollution. Thanks in part to a popular book that raised awareness about pesticides polluting water and killing animals. Then a major CA oil spill led a US senator to say ‘we need to wake up.’ He established Earth Day in 1970. In its first year, 20 million people protested the negative impacts of industrial development. It helped push the federal government to make some green moves – creating the EPA and passing the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act.

The Big Issue

In the 1970s and beyond, there was growing attention on – and legal protections for – the environment. But the planet continues to heat up, in large part because of ongoing fossil fuel use by a growing population. Now, spoiler: the situation isn’t good. Most of the rise in the Earth’s temp has happened in recent decades. And it’s leading to things like rising sea levels, melting ice caps, heavier rainstorms, droughts, flooding, intense heat waves, and more extreme wildfires and hurricanes. See: Hurricanes Florence, Harvey, Irma, and Maria, Cyclone Idai, California wildfires, and flooding in the Midwest. Just to name a few.

Yikes. What’s being done to help save the planet?

On a global level…in 2015, almost every country agreed to join the Paris climate deal. The goal: cut greenhouse gas emissions around the world. Even though the Trump admin has since pulled the US out of it, other countries are still moving forward with it. Gen Z is taking a stand too. Last year, Swedish teen Greta Thunberg made headlines for her speech at the UN’s climate summit, saying that leaders aren’t doing enough to protect the planet. She inspired hundreds of thousands of students around the world to protest inaction around climate change earlier this year.

On a national level…countries are taking matters into their own hands. The EU voted to ban single-use plastics by 2021. The US has tax credits for people who buy new electric cars. Some lawmakers like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) have backed the Green New Deal – a plan to get the US to rely 100% on renewable energy sources for electricity within 10 years. And Morocco has installed one of the largest solar farms in the world. Because, deserts.

On a local level…cities and states are proposing and passing legislation to curb climate change. Like California, which is requiring the state’s entire economy (everything from electricity to transportation) to produce zero carbon emissions by 2045. Seattle, which was the first major US city to ban plastic straws and utensils. And NYC, which was the first US city to approve a congestion tax to encourage people to use public transportation.

But recently, there have been some alarming reports that have the same conclusion: none of these moves are enough to avoid potential catastrophe.

Oh great. Give me the details.

Here are some of the reports that made headlines in the past year.

K freaking out now. Don’t things like recycling help?

It's complicated. Here's why:

What about everyone giving up straws?

We Skimm'd that too.

The Debate

Even though most climate scientists argue that humans are to blame for recent climate change, there are still opinions.

Some say we’re nearing a catastrophe...and it’s time to panic. Since we’re reaching the brink of trouble, maybe it’ll light a fire under people to take action.

Others say the world faces many threats. And we shouldn’t make any drastic moves to address climate change without knowing the economic ramifications.

The Impact

The average American emits about 16 tons of carbon dioxide every year, mostly by driving cars. Here are some ways to lower that number…

And here's one way you can up your recycling game: pay attention to the numbers on your plastic.


Climate change can feel like an overwhelming problem. You can make a difference on an individual level. But ultimately many say it requires a global response. A new generation of activists and recent reports seem to have infused the climate change convo with more urgency. Now the question is whether it’ll lead to any concrete policies.

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