This year’s Earth Day theme is ‘Restore Our Earth’ and at least one Malaysian resort is taking steps to do just that.
Every year on April 22, Earth Day marks the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970. It began in the United States.
In the decades leading up to the first Earth Day, Americans were consuming vast amounts of leaded gas through massive and inefficient automobiles. Industry belched out smoke and sludge with little fear of the consequences from either the law or bad press. Air pollution was commonly accepted as the smell of prosperity. Until this point, mainstream America remained largely oblivious to environmental concerns and how a polluted environment threatens human health.
However, the stage was set for change with the publication of Rachel Carson’s New York Times bestseller Silent Spring in 1962. The book represented a watershed moment, selling more than 500,000 copies in 24 countries as it raised public awareness and concern for living organisms, the environment and the inextricable links between pollution and public health.
THE IDEA FOR THE FIRST EARTH DAY
Senator Gaylord Nelson, a junior senator from Wisconsin, had long been concerned about the deteriorating environment in the United States. Then in January 1969, he and many others witnessed the ravages of a massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California. Inspired by the student anti-war movement, Senator Nelson wanted to infuse the energy of student anti-war protests with an emerging public consciousness about air and water pollution.
Senator Nelson announced the idea for a teach-in on college campuses to the national media, and persuaded Pete McCloskey, a conservation-minded Republican Congressman, to serve as his co-chair. They recruited Denis Hayes, a young activist, to organise the campus teach-ins, and they choose April 22, a weekday falling between Spring Break and Final Exams, to maximise the greatest student participation.
They changed the name to Earth Day, which immediately sparked national media attention, and caught on across the country. Earth Day inspired 20 million Americans — at the time, 10% of the total population of the United States — to take to the streets, parks and auditoriums to demonstrate against the impacts of 150 years of industrial development which had left a growing legacy of serious human health impacts. Thousands of colleges and universities organised protests against the deterioration of the environment and there were massive coast-to-coast rallies in cities, towns, and communities.
1990: EARTH DAY GOES GLOBAL
As 1990 approached, a group of environmental leaders approached Denis Hayes to once again organize another major campaign for the planet. This time, Earth Day went global, mobilizing 200 million people in 141 countries and lifting environmental issues onto the world stage. Earth Day 1990 gave a huge boost to recycling efforts worldwide and helped pave the way for the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. It also prompted President Bill Clinton to award Senator Nelson the Presidential Medal of Freedom — the highest honor given to civilians in the United States — for his role as Earth Day founder.
EARTH DAY TODAY
Today, Earth Day is widely recognized as the largest secular observance in the world, marked by more than a billion people every year as a day of action to change human behavior and create global, national and local policy changes.
Now, the fight for a clean environment continues with increasing urgency, as the ravages of climate change become more and more apparent every day.
As the awareness of our climate crisis grows, so does civil society mobilization, which is reaching a fever pitch across the globe today. Disillusioned by the low level of ambition following the adoption of the Paris Agreement in 2015 and frustrated with international environmental lethargy, citizens of the world are rising up to demand far greater action for our planet and its people.
The social and cultural environments we saw in 1970 are rising up again today — a fresh and frustrated generation of young people are refusing to settle for platitudes, instead taking to the streets by the millions to demand a new way forward. Digital and social media are bringing these conversations, protests, strikes and mobilizations to a global audience, uniting a concerned citizenry as never before and catalyzing generations to join together to take on the greatest challenge that humankind has faced.
By tapping into some of the learnings, outcomes, and legacy of the first Earth Day, EARTHDAY.ORG is building a cohesive, coordinated, diverse movement, one that goes to the very heart of what EARTHDAY.ORG and Earth Day are all about — empowering individuals with the information, the tools, the messaging and the communities needed to make an impact and drive change.
Malaysia is among the over 190 countries today which observes Earth Day and uses it as a call to action to protect and preserve our planet.
On the occasion of Earth Day 2021, Environment and Water Minister Datuk Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man said some initiatives being taken include strengthening the governance, enforcement, and development of legal frameworks, policy reviews, and developing suitable action plans – all with an eye towards taking better care of Mother Earth.
“The public are encouraged to be aware on the importance of preserving and protecting the environment,” he said. “During the Movement Control Order (MCO), the quality of air and rivers have improved. The main challenge now is to continue taking care of the environment once the MCO is lifted as it is our responsibility.”
He also added, “This is in line with the Islamic principles which call on the people to treat the Earth fairly and in a prosperous way.”
One well-known resort that is taking Earth Day to heart is Club Med in Cherating Beach, which was actually the first Club Med resort in Asia! A new Malaysian Club Med is also on the horizon with the anticipated Club Med Borneo Kota Kinabalu, and these sustainability initiatives will be implemented there, as well as at the existing Cherating resort.
Throughout their history, Club Med has forged a strong belief: the moments of happiness offered to guests are to be shared and they cannot be experienced at the expense of others or of nature – and they are still committed to this path until today.
Since the pandemic, travel has become a privilege, which obliges both those who travel and those providing the travel services to take responsibility for the nature surrounding them. Therefore, under Thrive Again, Club Med has a part to play in accompanying the transition to a more positive tourism, from all-inclusive to inclusive for all and to continue to show the way towards more sustainable thus more desirable vacations.
As the world emerges from the pandemic in the coming months (hopefully), there is already a strong expectation that the hospitality industry, and tourism in particular, will use this unprecedented time as an opportunity to ‘reset’ and implement sweeping changes towards responsible tourism and sustainability efforts.
CLUB MED CHERATING
The resort is introducing and implementing eco -friendly activities that promotes eco-friendly behaviours through internal resort programs:
- Turtle Conservatory Programme – Located near the resort, guests can also learn all about turtles and their life cycle, as well as the history of the sanctuary, what they do, and their achievements in animal conservation efforts.
- Amazing Family initiative – Implementing environmentally focused activities for families through their ‘Time to Care and Time to Quest’, which promotes education on the nature and wildlife surrounding the resort, while creating bonding holiday moments with loved ones.
- Beach Clean-up at Cherating Beach – ‘Clean-up the beach’ operations are found in seven Club Med resorts, including Club Med Cherating, where the act for the protection of marine turtles through the publication of guidelines provided in our ‘Very Important Turtles’ kits.
There are also continuous and ongoing efforts aimed at reducing waste:
- Bye-Bye Plastic – In 2018, Club Med launched its ‘Bye-Bye Plastic’ programme, which aims to ban single-use plastic products from bars, restaurants and rooms by 2021.
- Food Waste reduction program – Club Med has managed to limit food waste to just 101g per meal, per person thanks to more than 60 years of experience in generous and judicious buffets. That’s a significant performance for one of the least avoidable waste generators.
The Wild Months initiative at Club Med Cherating includes the following efforts:
- Since the initiative’s launch in 2019, Club Med has increased efforts to collaborate with like-minded brands to introduce curated nature-centric activities that are both educational and respectful to nature.
- In 2019, Club Med Cherating partnered with LUSH, teaching guests how to craft their own organic, cruelty-free bath bombs while raising awareness on the importance of sustainability and combatting over-packaging of beauty and health products.
- This year, Wild Months will collaborate with Zero Waste Malaysia and other eco-friendly brands to curate activities for guests at the resort.
Club Med Cherating is a Green Globe certified resort, and was actually the first resort to be certified globally in 2017. In order for Club Med to attain the Green Globe certification for each resort, it first had to implement and manage an action plan for sustainable development. This included initiatives such as effective management of waste, as well as the saving of energy and protection of biodiversity. Furthermore, each resort had to actively support the economic and social development of the host region. As of 2021, all Club Med resorts in Asia Pacific are Green Globe certified.
And the next Club Med in Malaysia is coming soon! Built on 41 acres of land flanked by tropical rainforests, fronted by kilometres of pristine beach with picture-perfect white sand, and located next to a mangrove reserve, Club Med Borneo Kota Kinabalu will be Club Med’s first large-scale sustainably-built beach resort in Asia Pacific certified by the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM). The desire to focus on eco-sustainability is shared by both Club Med and resort owner GSBRC and looks to ensure that the location’s natural beauty is preserved while increasing the resort’s positive impact to the community. Currently still in development, the resort is set to open in 2024.
EARTH DAY 2021
We always like sharing companies’ efforts towards sustainability and environmental responsibility. Earth Day does a lot to raise awareness towards a continuing need for us to care for our planet, but the awareness must translate to action to make a positive impact.
Parallel to the Biden Administration’s global climate summit, EARTHDAY.ORG will have its second Earth Day Live digital event, right on their website. The global show begins at 12 PM Eastern Time on April 22 (which is 12 AM here, midnight on April 23).
Workshops, panel discussions, and special performances will focus on Restore Our Earth™ — the event will cover natural processes, emerging green technologies, and innovative thinking that can restore the world’s ecosystems.
More topics will include:
- Climate and environmental literacy
- Climate restoration technologies
- Reforestation efforts
- Regenerative agriculture
- Equity and environmental justice
- Citizen science
- Cleanups, and more.
World climate leaders, grassroots activists, nonprofit innovators, thought leaders, industry leaders, artists, musicians, influencers, and the leaders of tomorrow will come to push us towards a better world.
Happy Earth Day 2021!
Earth Day history notes provided by Earthday.org.
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