The message coming from the organization Earth Day Network (EDN), the official sponsor of Earth Day—held each year on April 22—seems to be that action is required. EDN is pushing people to help them reach two billion acts of green by pledging to support specific commitments, including recycling electronic waste, supporting tree-planting efforts, telling the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to start regulating power plant emissions and investing in solar for one’s home. The original referendum A Billion Acts of Green was launched in 2010, in honor of Earth Day’s 40th anniversary and left the actions up to the community. As they aim for two billion, EDN has fine-tuned its request. At the same time, the organization is championing certain major initiatives year-round, including a call for an equal number of women leaders in the new green economy.
“The support and enthusiasm for A Billion Acts of Green® has been tremendous over the years, so there’s no reason to stop at one billion,” said Kathleen Rogers, president of Earth Day Network, in a release. “For the next billion, we’ll be directing that momentum—introducing fresh sub-campaigns periodically to both educate people and inspire targeted action. Think of it as A Billion Acts of Green 2.0.”
Beyond tree-planting, e-waste and other featured campaigns, Earth Day Network supports a series of campaigns year-round, including the Women and the Green Economy (WAGE®) campaign which supports a leadership role for women in the transition from fossil fuels to a green economy, with women filling positions traditionally held by men.
In a commentary related to the Rio + 20 conference, the worldwide sustainability conference held last year, Rogers wrote: “The stark fact is that almost all green-revolution investors and decision-makers—those who are defining and designing the green economy—are from a single demographic: men.” She then noted that a sustainable economy depends in large part on the equal involvement of women, since their employment drives global growth, their positions in legislatures reduces corruption and their earning supports communities, since they put resources back into the community at a higher rate than men.
To fix the current imbalance, Rogers suggests that “To start, corporations, governments and international institutions should adopt quotas for participation—from board rooms to national forums to multilateral negotiations.” Once this first step is taken, “we can get down to the business of breaking down legal barriers to women’s full participation in the green economy,” she writes. “We need a comprehensive examination of national and international law and protocol dealing with the economy, energy and environment for bias against women. Then, we need to alter the language to promote inclusiveness.”
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in speaking before the first-ever Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation in 2011, made many of the same points about the connection between strong economies and women leaders and workers. She noted that “ Reduction in barriers to female labor force participation would increase the size of America’s GDP by 9 percent, the Euro Zone’s by 13 percent, and Japan’s by 16 percent.”
These efforts on the part of Earth Day Network are emblematic of the organization’s shifting position from a celebratory day-of-festivals to a serious change-agent pushing for real environmental reforms that benefit everyone.