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Earth Day 2021: Fighting for the Future of the Planet
On April 22 every year, we celebrate the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement with Earth Day. Since the first Earth Day in 1970, this day has marked global collaboration and awareness of the need to fight for a cleaner and healthier Earth.
It all began in 1962 when Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring hit the New York’s bestseller list selling over 500,000 copies in 24 countries. As public awareness and concerns were raised over the environment, and the links between pollution and public health were put in the spotlight, Earth Day 1970 would come to provide a voice to this emerging environmental awareness.
Today, with over 190 engaged and committed countries and over 1 billion individuals involved, Earth Day has come a long way. Since the first Earth Day, important strides have been made worldwide including the signing of the historic Paris Agreement and the implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and Earth Day continues to grow every year.
This year, the theme is “Restore Our Earth”, and organizers are preparing three separate parallel climate action summits on April 20 and 21 ahead of the global leaders’ climate summit on Earth Day 2021, focusing respectively on climate literacy, environmental justice, and a broad range of youth-led climate-focused issues. At a more local level, Earth Day organizers are tracking events all around the world that you can get involved in.
To help you engage with Earth Day and its values, Elsevier presents a curated list of free access journal articles and book chapters. At Elsevier, we support environmental awareness and the goal of achieving a sustainable and equitable future to #RestoreOurPlanet.
Featured Book Chapters Include:
Climate Extremes and Their Implications for Impact and Risk Assessment
Chapter 12 – “Assessing vulnerability and risk of climate change”
By Bapon (SHM) Fakhruddin, Kate Boylan, Alec Wild, and Rebekah Robertson
Assessments of vulnerability and risk of extreme weather or climate events are essential in order to inform and implement appropriate prevention, adaptation, and mitigation strategies. In the present situation, extreme variations of weather and climate have severe impacts, particularly in less-developed countries. Due to the complex nature and uncertainties of future climate change projections, it is not feasible to assess vulnerability at detailed scales for extreme weather events. Based on global case studies and good practices of strong critical infrastructure resilience, this chapter highlights the importance of critical infrastructure resilience, different climate risk assessment frameworks available for identification and planning, and how to manage the uncertainty associated with climate risk.
This article describes methods and concepts for emulating and including nature’s role in engineering activities, with the expectation that they will contribute to sustainable engineering. Existing nature-inspired methods function at different levels ranging from individual products to large integrated networks. These include methods such as biomimicry and industrial symbiosis that mimic some characteristic property of a natural system but depend on technological improvements for sustainability; ecological engineering and green infrastructure that depend on nature-based solutions as means for sustainability and techno-ecological synergy that integrates technological and ecological systems by adopting a holistic perspective of design.
In this chapter, the greenhouse effect, global warming, and the feedback mechanisms are presented in terms of concentration of greenhouse gases. The present global warming situation is discussed together with the problem of CO2 pollution and the slow replacement of fossil fuel by renewable forms of energy. The urgency of the need to reduce CO2 pollution is stressed. The possible relationship between COVID-19 and other zoonotic diseases is commented on, and the question is posed as to why the world is so slow in overcoming global warming? The social and ethical impacts of climate change and, finally, possible solutions to overcoming the reticence of the general population and governments in tackling global warming are discussed.
This chapter describes Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and other reports on the need to limit global temperature increase to 2.0°C and preferably 1.5°C. The chapter outlines possible scenarios and introduces the concept of “net zero” by 2050, the essential elimination of greenhouse gas emissions. The chapter also discusses why this deadline is not achievable and presents a more likely scenario, addressing SDGs 13, 15, and 12 by examining scenarios for reaching net zero production and consumption, but also the challenges in implementation.
Life is composed primarily of carbon, so estimates of the global production and destruction of organic carbon give us an overall index of the health of the biosphere. Photosynthetic organisms capture sunlight energy in organic compounds that fuel the biosphere and account for the presence of molecular O2 in our atmosphere. Thus, the carbon and oxygen cycles on Earth are inextricably linked, and the presence of O2 in Earth’s atmosphere sets the redox potential for organic metabolism in most habitats. When we understand the carbon cycle, we can make good first approximations of the movement of other elements in global cycles, recognizing the predictable stoichiometry of the chemical elements in organic matter. Currently humans harvest about 20% of the annual production of organic carbon on land. In many areas we have destroyed land vegetation, while in other areas we have planted productive crops and forests. At the moment, it appears that humans have created a net sink for carbon in the terrestrial biosphere, which mitigates some of the anticipated rise in atmospheric CO2 from fossil fuel combustion.
Global Environmental Sustainability: Case Studies and Analysis of the United Nations’ Journey toward Sustainable Development
Chapter 2 – “The United Nations’ journey to global environmental sustainability since Stockholm: An assessment”
By Choy Yee Keong
This chapter seeks to clarify or extend the arguments elucidated in Chapter 1, Introduction: Sustainable Development—A Preliminary Reflection and to provide a detailed review and coherent picture of the United Nations’ environmental initiatives from a historical perspective. Particularly, it aims to explore comprehensively the evolution of the concept of sustainable development since the United Nations convened its first international conference on sustainable resource use in 1949. This serves as the basis for understanding the relationship between the economic, social, and environmental problems confronting us today. This chapter also discusses a number of major efforts made at various United Nations conventions such as the Stockholm Conference, the World Summit on Sustainable Development (2002) and the Rio+20 Summit (2012), among others, to reinforce the operational perspectives of the concept of sustainable development.
Main bottlenecks, potential boosters, and brakes for the growth of plastics are examined in this chapter. Waste strategies range from waste minimization (the best solution) to landfilling through recycling and the lesser known repairing and reuse. Current or high-tech applications are involved, but in a different way, the refurbishment and modernization of processing machines according to Industry 4.0 criteria can contribute to the improvement of manufacturing. This chapter discusses the key drivers, obstacles, and opportunities in plastics sustainability, offering a balanced analysis of current challenges and solutions – supporting more sustainable production, use, and re-use of plastics, which are valuable material with critical applications across civilization.
Water-quality disasters occur frequently worldwide. They do not necessarily occur only in underdeveloped world. Detailed water-quality evaluations can help prevent occurrence of some of these disasters. This chapter discusses our vulnerability to water disasters to help us avoid some of them in the future.
Biomass, Biofuels, Biochemicals: Circular Bioeconomy—Current Developments and Future Outlook
Chapter 27 – “Circular Economy and Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage”
By Ilies Tebbiche, Julien Mocellin, Lan Tran Huong, and Louis-César Pasquier
The CO2 concentration in the atmosphere has increased by almost 50% since the industrial revolution. As the global economy might still be dependent on fossil fuels for the next decades, unprecedented measures will be required to avoid further irreversible consequences of potential global warming. Carbon capture, storage, and utilization offer a broad panel of techniques that could tackle carbon emissions and contribute to replacing the “carbon to waste economy” with a “sustainable carbon circular economy.” Carbon capture and reuse techniques offer economic incentives but generally suffer from high-cost penalty. This chapter focuses on carbon capture, utilization, and storage techniques, with a special scope on mineral carbonation, as a promising solution toward a carbon circular economy.
The Tree of Life is in peril due to human population growth and activities. There have been five previous mass extinctions in the history of our planet all caused by natural events including meteor impact and volcanic eruptions. Welcome to the early stages of the sixth mass extinction on Earth. The causes of this mass extinction are clearly the result of human activity with extinction rates 1000 times that which is considered a normal background rate and rising; that equates to the loss of scores of species each day. This sixth mass extinction will have serious consequences for our own species whether it be the loss of species with medicinal value (imagine the loss of a plant or animal with cancer-curing chemical properties—a plant that could have saved the lives of your children or grandchildren) or the loss of close relatives of crops impacting crop improvement. Ecosystem function will also be impacted with downstream impact on clean air and clean water.
Earth & Environmental Science
The fields of Earth science, planetary sciences, and environmental science encompass disciplines critical to the future of our world and its inhabitants. Our well-being depends on a thorough understanding of air and water resources, soil chemistry, atmospheric dynamics, geology, and geochemistry, along with a myriad of other aspects of the environment we live in. Elsevier supports the efforts of researchers and scholars in these areas with content that meets their cross-disciplinary needs: journals, books, eBooks, and online tools that span computer science, chemistry, energy, engineering, biology, agronomy, ecology, environmental impact and many other topics fundamental to the study of our world. Learn more about our Earth and Environmental Science books here.