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Earth Day is a worldwide movement, celebrated on April 22, yearly. This year is no different as we celebrate under the theme: Climate Action. The observance of Earth Day started with one simple objective; to bring global awareness about environmental protection. This movement began in 1970 to save nature, where some 20 million demonstrators (at the grassroot level) and thousands of schools and local communities participated. From this event, the US Environmental Protection Agency was established, followed by the passing of the Clean Air Act in the same year, the Clean Water Act in 1972, and the Endangered Species Act in 1973. Although this day has its origin in the United States, the recognition and celebration of the planet, our home, is now a yearly commemoration by more than 500 million people in 190+ countries.

As humans, we depend either directly or indirectly on plants and animals for food, shelter, water and air which are necessities of life. Thus, the Earth freely provides the essentials for human existence. However, over the years, human demand for Earth’s bounties has skyrocketed placing undue pressure on our planet’s ability to recuperate.  Additionally, the manner in which we often harvest and extract Earth’s resources has led to degradation and pollution; thereby hampering natural renewal processes, threatening our very existence. These threats are evident in the many environmental issues facing our world today, such as, air pollution, climate change, global warming, and improper disposal of and use of non-biodegradable material such as Single-use Plastics (SUP), etc.

Plastics and Climate Change

Plastics and climate change are linked in a variety of ways. Habitat destruction, fossil fuel emissions, and plastic pollution are some of the ways that plastics and climate change cannot be separated. 80% of plastics end up in our landfills, while, dioxins and toxins can leach out of the landfills and contaminate our waterways and oceans. According to Bauman (2019), “Oil, gas, and coal are the known fossil-fuel building blocks of plastics”. The link between the fossil-fuel, plastics and the environment is even clearer as further posited by Bauman, “Extraction and transportation of these fossil fuels to make plastic is an activity which produces a surplus of Carbon Dioxide”. Carbon dioxide is a primary greenhouse gas within Earth’s atmosphere, which contributes to global warming. Therefore, increasing the rate of plastics, increase the rate of Carbon dioxide emissions, thus, increasing the rate of climate change.

Plastic exposed to solar radiation at our landfills, plastics dumped along our coastlines, at our communities’ playgrounds, etc., pose the problem of methane and ethylene gas emission, (Royer, 2018). These gases are identified as part of the global greenhouse gas budget, and would magnify if plastic production continues. Additionally, plastic pollution exacerbates the impacts of climate change. Extreme weather events can cause flooding and plastic pollution can complicate the impacts of flooding.

Therefore, since it is evident in Guyana and the world at large that plastic pollution has become a threat to human health, the marine environment, biodiversity, and the larger environment, Guyana and the world has taken the initiative to ban the use of Single-use plastic (SUP). The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with support from the Department of Environment is leading the ban on SUP scheduled for 2021.

A call for unified Action…

Happy Earth Day Guyana and special thanks to all our Partners for their continued support.