States of plastic

According to organizers, the event now brings together around a billion people from 200 countries every April 22 to help protect the planet

This representative image shows a person holding a globe. — Unsplash/file

Originally launched in 1970 by a US Senator and environmental activist and a Harvard Graduate student to engage the public and draw more attention to environmental issues in the US, Earth Day can be counted as one of the events or movements that marked the beginning of global climate change to mark. environmental movement as we know it today. According to organizers, the event now brings together around a billion people from 200 countries every April 22 to help protect the planet. A few years after the first Earth Day, which brought an estimated 20 million people into the streets in the US to sound the environmental alarm bells, the country created the Environmental Protection Agency and strengthened or passed new environmental laws such as the Clean Air Act. While US air is certainly more breathable today than it was in the 1970s, this has come at the cost of more unbreathable air in the South, where many US and other wealthy country companies exported their most polluting activities of recent decades . after the seventies. Many of these same companies today will be seen tweeting their support for Earth Day or touting their environmental credentials, with greenwashing becoming one of the most pernicious trends in the environmental and climate activism landscape today.

The theme for this year’s Earth Day is ‘Planet vs Plastics’, with the aim of raising awareness about the dangers of plastic to both the environment and human health. Pakistan has a lot to say about plastic waste and pollution. The country is practically drowning in it; More than three million tons of plastic waste is produced in Pakistan every year. Sometimes this is literally the case, as plastic litter clogs pipes and drains, leading to deadly urban flooding every time it rains. But plastic pollution is more than just an indirect problem. It is a catastrophe in itself. From soil degradation to water pollution and a 20 percent higher rate of childhood cancer due to microplastics due to plastic degradation and air pollution from the burning of plastic waste, there is arguably no other material that is harmful to the environment than the oil and other petrochemicals used to protect the environment. making plastic. There is also probably no material that is so ubiquitous, in high demand, and easily and cheaply made; more than 380 million tons are now made annually. Plastic goes with almost everything and because it’s so cheap, it doesn’t exactly encourage moderation or reuse, despite the high environmental costs of not doing so. Plastic is the drug that fuels overconsumption and waste.

Earth Day’s response to this monumental problem is to call for a 60 percent reduction in plastic production by 2040. This is already an ambitious goal and will only get bigger as the world moves closer to the 2040 deadline, as demand to plastic is only increasing. to grow. And while 50 countries, including Britain, have called for an end to plastic pollution by 2040, things will have to change if this goal doesn’t suffer the same fate as the clean air movement. Much of the world’s plastic production and pollution takes place in the South, but is fueled by demand in rich countries. The rise of industries like fast fashion only fuels this demand, as people buy about 60 percent more clothes than they did fifteen years ago, but keep each item for only half as long. This is an industry that would not exist without the weak environmental laws and cheap labor of the poor countries and the impunity that this polluting industry and similar industries in the rich countries enjoy. The loudest calls come louder than any call for environmental action. from exactly the same countries. There is simply no solution to plastic pollution, or any other environmental problem, without first cracking down on the industries responsible for producing it. This means that we must strive for economic justice, without which environmental justice is at best a utopia and at worst a neocolonial cudgel.