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  • Michael L Bergonzi

Earth Day: Where it's Been, How it's Going.

April 22 is Earth Day. It's also the day before William Shakespeare died in 1616. Those events don't seem related, but from the mid-13th century, a cold front known as the little ice age lasted until around 1850. The ice age most are familiar with had woolly mammoths and saber tooth tigers. Mammoths became extinct during the Holocene epoch (the epoch we are still currently in) after the climate warmed up and became officially extinct 4000 years ago. Despite co-existing with early humans, humanity did not directly cause the Woolly Mammoth to go extinct through hunting

A 2021 article from cites a study conducted by Eske Willerslev of the University of Cambridge. Upon researching Willerslev and the other researchers concluded: "'We have finally been able to prove was that it was not just the climate changing that was the problem, but the speed of it that was the final nail in the coffin—they were not able to adapt quickly enough.'" Like the climate change of today, it may be a natural phenomenon. The question is how big a role humans play in climate change. Since the extinction of woolly mammoths happened before everything came wrapped in plastic, the decreasing levels of ozone are suspect, to say the least.

Earth Day as we know it started in 1970 and has over 190 countries engaged with saving the earth. According to the website, the increase in plastic creation and consumption has had an adverse effect on human health. One fact from Harvard Medical School states that "When food is wrapped in plastic containing BPA, phthalates may leak into the food." BPA, also known as, bisphenol A, is used to make the bulk of plastics in the world including bottled drinks and dinnerware. Experts also recommend not reusing plastic butter containers as Tupperware, because the chemicals can latch onto food when heating up in a microwave.

In Champaign-Urbana, an organization called I-SEE is helping the Illinois Climate Action Plan (ICAP) combat climate change by picking up trash and recyclables that sometimes litter the main quad at the University of Illinois. ICAP's goal is for the University of Illinois system (including the Chicago and Springfield campuses) to achieve carbon neutrality AKA zero carbon by 2050, says I-SEE intern Emily Dicken. Dicken calls the organization the "front porch for sustainability on campus."

Atul Jain, an atmospheric sciences professor at the University, says that climate is a dynamic system. "It always changes," Jain says. He adds that farmers have already begun feeling the effects of climate change. "They are already facing challenges in terms of water scarcity, droughts in the region, right? All these are the sign of climate change."

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