Earth Day is every day in Chico

Collective action and protecting the environment is what Earth Day is all about. The holiday started on April 22, 1970 and Chico State has been celebrating it since the start. The first celebration was seen as a protest but it has grown to be a joyous occasion. 

“Restore our Earth” is the theme for Earth Day this year. It focuses on climate change, individual action and climate change literacy. 

Chico State celebrates all Earth Day festivities: Earth Day, Earth Week and Earth Month. The university is all for sustainability and inclusiveness. Chico State has a few programs and clubs for Wildcats to get involved in sustainability efforts.

Cheri Chastain, Chico State’s director of energy and sustainability, believes that Earth Day should be everyday. However, having a dedicated day to come together and celebrate the gifts the Earth has to offer is also great. 

“It is a reminder that we are just one of the millions of species of flora and fauna that we share this incredible place with,” Chastain said. “It should be a day of celebration, inspiration, and the start of continued and renewed action.”

It has become an international holiday because climate change is a problem everyone faces, no matter where they are located. Eight billion people from across the globe celebrate this holiday, according to EARTHDAY.ORG

Climate change is the result of excess greenhouse gases, deforestation and pollution. The best way people can get involved is looking up what environmental concerns their local government has, reducing their carbon footprint and conscious consumption.  

The effects of climate change are prevalent in California. Habitual fires caused from decade long droughts, the decline of natural habitats and fauna and algae blooms. Chico declared a climate emergency in April 2019. The Climate Action Commission meets the second Thursday of every month to give updates on the city’s progress. 

Dozens of religious, political leaders and environmental activists chimed in and gave their support for protecting the environment at Earth Day Live on April 22. The keynote speakers of the event were Pope Francis, famous businessman Kevin O’Leary, environmental activist Terry Spahr and Jerry Kelly from the U.S Special Presidential Envoy on Climate. They paneled together to explain how people can combat climate change.

The pope acknowledged the steady decline of the global environment and urged everyone to be conscious of their actions. “God always forgives, men forgive from time to time, but nature never forgives,” Francis said. “ When the destruction of nature is triggered, it will be too late to stop, but we still have time.” He encouraged people to do what they can, no matter how small since everything counts.

People can fight climate change by purchasing items from sustainable retailers. “Consumer movements can cause economic change,” O’Leary said. If people were to choose products only from companies with a sustainability mission, it will urge companies to change their values and reckless production methods. 

“Almost everything we do or buy has a carbon impact and wider sustainability impact,” Spahr said. “Most of us don’t think about what’s behind the things we do or buy.” 

People have been tricked into buying cheaper goods that take a lot of greenhouse gasses to produce. Spahr encouraged people to be more aware of their actions and to do what they can. 

Kelly said climate change isn’t a new concept. It was formerly known as global warming, but is now being called the “climate crisis.” The change of name signifies a new era of sustainability effort, and gives the problem a more serious tone. Kelly facilitated the first Earth Day in Massachusetts back in 1970 and has been closely working with environmental issues ever since. He said the country has made good progress but still has a lot of work to do.

The main producer of greenhouse gases is food waste. When people throw uneaten food, leftovers or the bits and pieces from their plates, it all adds up at the landfill, and emits large amounts of greenhouse gases. People can combat this by making proper portions of food, so excess won’t be thrown away. A simple lifestyle and diet change can reduce people’s carbon footprint immensely. 

Simple ways people can reduce their carbon footprint and waste:

  • Eating everything that’s on your plate
  • Stop using plastic utensils and containers 
  • Making less purchases to reduce waste
  • Recycling plastic and glass bottles 
  • Composting your own organic waste

Former Chico State President Paul J. Zingg signed a climate action plan in 2011, promising the transition to a fully green campus by 2030. It aimed to lower the emission of greenhouse gases used by the university, so that it can gradually become climate neutral.

“California State University, Chico is, fundamentally, a place of public purpose and service. We fulfill our responsibilities through the high aspirations we set for ourselves and the values that inform and govern our endeavors,” Zingg wrote on the climate action plan.

Chico State is committed to being environmentally responsible, inclusive for people of all orientations, and protecting the welfare of local land and indigenous people. President Gayle Hutchinson and faculty members show their respect by acknowledging and giving thanks to the sacred land of the Mechoopda people at the start of most events.

“We aim to be a leader in American higher education by building on our core commitments, connecting to our region, and helping to create a more just and vibrant democratic society,” Zingg wrote in the climate action plan. “Among the choices we’ve made to prepare our students for the challenges they will face are cultivating respect for the planet and championing sustainable development.” 

Climate change literacy is crucial. The health of the Earth is declining and it’s up to people to preserve it for future generations. People don’t need to do anything excessive, they just need to do what they can. Everything counts when combating climate change, there’s strength in numbers.

Melvin Bui can be reached at [email protected] or @Melvinbuii on Twitter.