The first Earth Day was celebrated back in 1970, and we only imagine how news of it spread. Newspaper ads. Radio and TV spots, maybe even fliers! And yet still, some 20 million Americans turned out in force to help save the planet. Today, April 22, 2019, will mark the 49th Earth Day, now a global event celebrated by more than 1 billion people in 192 countries, the largest civic observance in the world. Companies such as Toyota, UPS and Southwest are all on board, in addition to the many corporate supporters who celebrate, challenge and inspire in their own way: from Yahoo’s plant sculptures made of discarded paper cups to Apple’s addition of a green leaf tweak to its retail stores’ logo to honor the day.
Not a day goes by where a youth activist – such as 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, whose weekly protests inspired a global youth climate movement that led middle-and high school students worldwide to trade in the classroom for the protest ground – or a rapper like Lil Dicky and his just-released “We Are the World”-esque star-studded song “Earth,” an awareness-and money-raising environmental anthem for our times, aren’t captivating ever-younger audiences to make a difference. It seems that with naturally organic campaigns achieving impact, impressions, downloads and influencing behavior, the role of storytelling communicators, marketers and creatives may seem obsolete. Do we still have a role to play?
Yes, we do, because our biggest client, the planet, is depending on us. We can do so much more to use our professional prowess to push ideation, activation and implementation for our client partners. We can do this by recognizing and educating around how much the green agenda has advanced over the last few years to include everything from what we eat, to how we dress, to where we live and what we breathe. This leads to the next step: the SDGs. It’s great that the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals have provided us with a framework in which to act, but we should not be looking at them in isolation. All 17 SDGs are interconnected, and climate runs through each and every one of them. Finally, we should be doing more research into the generation of change makers now coming up: It is the 11 to 16-year-olds, after all, who are leading not just on climate, but on gun control, equal rights and sex trafficking.
I have witnessed this kind of energy before. In 2015, when world leaders gathered in Paris to sign an agreement on climate change, I was working with the United Nations Foundation and their coalition of partners on the “pop up movement” called “Earth to Paris”, which used the power of digital activism to make enough noise for world leaders to notice. However, today the “power” is more than just top trending tweets, and the stakes are way higher. We all must do more and think bigger and bolder.
This Earth Day, have a think about what you want to do personally, but also what you want to do professionally to help save the planet. Something that crossed into my personal and professional life recently is a petition – globaldealfornature.org – in support of the new Global Deal for Nature (GDN), a scientific paper laying out targets to protect and restore half of the Earth’s lands and oceans to avoid a climate crisis.
Client Earth has paid (dearly). And now we must do the work. We want all Gretas everywhere to grow up celebrating the planet for another 49 years. And more.
Ravi Sunnak is EVP Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).