In line with the celebration of Earth Day on 22 April, Lexie Sarstedt, one of Trinity’s 2021 Sustainability Interns, reflects on what Earth Day means for her and the future of our planet.
Happy Earth Day! This annual event is used by people all around the world to celebrate the environment and campaign for its protection. The first Earth Day in 1970 brought 20 million Americans together to protest for better environmental legislation. Their passion led to the creation of the country’s Environmental Protection Agency, among many other things. The problems that face the environment today are different in scope and nature, but the power of raising our collective voices and implementing sustainable structures and practices is as strong as ever.
A huge environmental problem today is global warming. This phenomenon increases the occurrence of natural disasters, causes desertification and severely damages ecosystem such as coral reefs. In Australia, climate change means drier conditions and consequently longer fire seasons with more extreme fire days.
The severity of this was shown during the 2019–20 bushfires. Over 24 million hectares were burnt. Tragically, 33 people died during the fires and almost three billion animals were killed or displaced.
The massive scale of the season’s destruction became starkly clear to me when I visited Kangaroo Island to help in the clean-up efforts. Blackened trees and scorched land were everywhere to be seen. In total, 96% of the island’s world-renowned Flinders National Chase Park was burnt.
In Germany, climate change is also having a negative effect. Warming weather in the Oberbergishe Kries, Germany, where my grandmother lives, has led to an explosion in the bark beetle population, causing the death of a historic amount of spruce trees.
This Earth Day I’m hopeful that governments, organisations and individuals can work together to mitigate climate change and thereby help prevent the loss of lives and biodiversity. Key to this will be the implementation of sustainable practices such as switching to renewable energy and reducing waste.
I am happy to say that Trinity is being proactive in this field by aiming to be carbon neutral by 2023. We are also organising initiatives to lessen our environmental footprint – one of our most recent being our wildly successful Clean Up Australia Day event, which saw 109 (one third!) of the current Trinity students give up their Sunday to collect rubbish from areas around Melbourne such as the Yarra, Royal Park and Yarra Bend Park.
Through our actions and many others, I am confident we can achieve the world that individuals such as the founder of Earth Day envisioned – one where humans and the environment exist harmoniously together.
By Lexie Sarstedt