Celebrate Earth Day!

Earth Day 2024

April 22 is Earth Day, a day when billions of people around the globe participate in environmentally conscious activities geared toward protecting our planet.

Due to the alarming effects of climate change, protecting the planet has never been more urgent. Though climate change affects all human beings, Sara Minkara, U.S. Special Advisor on International Disability Rights for the Biden Administration, notes that people with disabilities are disproportionately affected by climate-related problems. One reason for this is because some disabled individuals—especially those in developing nations—lack access to education which might raise their awareness about the dangers of climate change. Another reason is that some disabled people are immunocompromised, making them more likely to be affected by environmental problems such as smog and climate-caused infectious diseases. Finally, says Minkara, people with disabilities are often more vulnerable to weather-related disasters since it may be more difficult for them to evacuate to safer locations.

Sometimes, climate change can feel overwhelming, and its challenges can seem insurmountable. But environmental experts tell us that everyone can make a difference. Here are some ways that all of us earthlings can do our part.

 1. Support climate and environmental education
If you’re a special educator, make age-appropriate environmental studies part of your curriculum. For example, you can take students on nature walks and bird-watching trips; create an accessible garden or establish a tree-planting event. You can also teach students about recycling and composting.

 2. Cut back on plastics use.
According to earthday.org, plastics “harm marine and human health, litter beaches and landscapes, and clog waste streams and landfills.” Earthday.org’s End Plastics campaign educates people about the dangers plastics pose to humans and ecosystems. The campaign’s goal is to reduce plastic use by 60% by 2040. Learn more at earthday.org.

3. Organize a community clean-up.
Earthday.org provides guidance on how to host a successful clean-up. The comprehensive resource offers tips on creating a planning group; choosing ideal sites, dates and times; attracting volunteers; and arranging for waste disposal.

4. Change your diet.
Did you know that the foods you eat can contribute to making the planet a healthier place? Animal-based foods such as meat and dairy products emit greenhouse gases that hurt the environment. The United Nations Climate Action initiative encourages people “where appropriate” to shift to a plant-based diet. For more information, click here.

 5. Get involved in the disability-inclusive climate change movement.
There are myriad organizations working to fight climate change and its impacts but not all of them consider the needs of disabled individuals. SustainedAbility “is a disability-led network working with grassroots movements and organisations on disability and climate justice.” For more information, visit sustainedability.org.