It often seems like every day of the year has its own holiday: Penguin Awareness Day (January 20th), Spicy Guacamole Day (November 14th), Work Naked Day (February 1st), just to name a few. Still, it’s important to recognize which of these numerous official days truly merit our celebration.
Earth Day—one example of a day with a purpose—was first celebrated in 1970 as a result of a growing awareness of environmental consequences. The United States was fighting a largely unpopular, destructive war in Vietnam and environmentalist Rachel Carson had published her book Silent Spring in 1962, which informed millions of people of the consequences of pesticide use. Over the next few years, Democrats and Republicans in Congress came together to pass the Clean Water, Clean Air, and Endangered Species Acts. This legislation, along with the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency, came largely as a result of the societal momentum and environmental awareness generated from celebrating Earth Day. In short, celebrating these official days can absolutely make an impact!
The UN established 2011 as the International Year of Forests in an admirable effort to raise awareness on global deforestation. March 21st continues to be celebrated as International Forest Day. And while all forests and types of biodiversity are worth protecting, it’s important to focus our attention on the forests that play the largest role in and are in the greatest need of our attention in our increasingly-threatened biosphere.
Enter World Rainforest Day.
Being home to upwards of 50% of all plants and animals on Earth, and providing more than 20% of the oxygen we breathe as well as food, water, and life-saving medicine, the role of rainforests in global human and environmental health is absolutely crucial. While we have made some headway slowing deforestation rates, environmental progress is rarely linear. Rainforests are still being destroyed at an astounding rate of 40 football fields per minute and deforestation accounts for 15% of global carbon emissions. Protecting and restoring tropical rainforests, however, could reduce emissions by 30%, due to rainforests’ ability to absorb large amounts of atmospheric carbon. With this in mind, it makes sense to give tropical rainforests their own special celebration.
When the United States announced it would completely pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement on June 1st 2017, Rainforest Partnership felt compelled to take action. On June 22nd, we launched the first ever World Rainforest Day to inspire global action to protect tropical rainforests and address climate change. Since then, landmark scientific reports from the United Nations have shown that the climate and biodiversity crises are far worse than we thought—we have less than 12 years to rapidly cut our carbon emissions and limit global warming to 1.5 °C, and even less time to prevent a million species from going extinct.
World Rainforest Day 2019 serves as a focused opportunity to highlight rainforests as solutions for climate, conservation, and human health, powered by the collective advocacy and action from millions of global citizens like you.
This year, we partnered with over 70 organizations made up of conservation groups, companies, media outlets, and environmental advocates to lead this effort in celebrating rainforests and raising awareness and funds to support their protection. We reached over 5 million people around the world through our social media posts and the hashtag #WorldRainforestDay on Twitter alone. Our message was shared by multiple influential rainforest organizations, as well as by World Wildlife Fund and National Geographic. Numerous rainforest-themed exhibits, workshops, tree-plantings, activations and fundraisers for took place throughout our hometown of Austin, Texas, and around the world. Locally, Mayor Steve Adler proclaimed June 22nd as World Rainforest Day in the City of Austin.
The day is over but we are already getting started planning for next year. We will continue to work towards expanding our global reach and recognition: that includes getting June 22nd officially recognized by the United Nations!
Just because it is no longer World Rainforest Day does not mean we can take a break from our fight to save the forests! The information found on the Act Now page of WorldRainforestDay.com contains relevant actions you as an individual can continue to take to lead a rainforest-conscious lifestyle, including cutting back on beef, sourcing sustainable palm oil, and, of course, making a contribution to rainforest conservation efforts. June 22nd was a major success but let’s keep up this momentum: the rainforests are counting on us!