A little over 50 years ago — April 22, 1970 — Earth Day was first celebrated. With it, came the widespread realization that as the world’s population grew and became more interconnected, our products, habits and living spaces were producing waste and pollution threatening the well-being of the planet.
While the first Earth Day focused on the United States, the annual celebration of awareness grew to become a worldwide observance highlighting the need to protect our world. Since its inception, the day has served as a forum for calling attention to problems and issues affecting all aspects our environment.
One of the most remarkable Earth Day accomplishments occurred in 2016, when 195 nations adopted as the landmark Paris Agreement by consensus. I was overjoyed when President Biden moved to have the United States rejoin the treaty earlier this year. As I noted at the time of the announcement, CSULB applauded the decision and will continue supporting efforts connected to the treaty.
At CSULB, I’m proud to say we have a long history of observing Earth Day, which we have now extended to Earth Week(s). The pandemic has continued to shape program delivery. It will remain virtual again this year. CSULB’s Sustainability team has created an entire month of (free) events, including a panel on social and environmental justice issues, the CSU Earth Month Eco Challenge, a green jobs roundtable, an interactive online gallery of student sustainability projects and more. The chief focus of programming is on recognizing and empowering positive and equitable change and wellness for all people and the planet.
These activities are vital to sustainability efforts everywhere — they remind us of the stakes at hand. We must, however, press on every day throughout the year. I am glad to say that at CSULB, our teams work to put ideas and words into action.
Three years ago, I assembled the President’s Commission on Sustainability. This select group is comprised of key campus and community members who advise on strategies connected to CSULB’s goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2030. (And we’re well on our way toward that lofty goal!) This includes efforts like placing energy-producing solar panels in our parking lots; ensuring that new buildings meet/exceed energy and environmental design standards; continually working to conserve energy and water; recycling; and creating spaces that are beneficial to working and learning.
While we are just one university, we’re part of a much larger effort. The Beach is a proud member of a global network of more than 600 colleges and universities working to mitigate climate change and find solutions to existing challenges. By banding together, we are truly stronger and have a significantly greater impact because of the collective research, leadership and activism regularly taking place on our campuses.
Naturally, educating our students about sustainability remains an important part of our overall effort. Each year, thousands of our graduates go out into the world having been exposed to the science of climate change in their classes, as well as to sustainability programs and activities on campus. There is a “Green Thread” running through many of our courses connecting multiple disciplines with environmental justice, air and water quality, city planning, and the effects of greenhouse gases. Our teams at The Beach are doing important and necessary work, but it’s our graduates upon whom we pin our hopes. We need — and expect — them to become leaders in the effort to restore our communities, nation and planet to a healthier state.
More than a half-century ago, the idea of a special day to celebrate and work on behalf of our Earth came to fruition. Today, the celebration of those same ideals reminds us that while we may be from different regions, come from different economic and ethnic groups, and follow different beliefs, we all share the same planet. The observance of Earth Week(s) at CSULB and elsewhere reminds us that if we don’t work together on solutions, we run the very real risk of not having much of a planet to celebrate.
For more information on related events at CSULB, visit Earth Week(s) at The Beach.