According to EarthDay.org, “Earth Day is today widely recognized as the largest secular observance in the world, marked by more than a billion people every year as a day of action to change human behaviour and create global, national and local policy changes.” Earth Day’s origins date back to 1970 in the United States. As the effects of industrialization were becoming increasingly clear, a small, largely young and politically active segment of American society set out to raise awareness about the accelerating and frightening spectre of human-caused environmental damage and destruction.
Early on, action associated with Earth Day focused mostly on highly visible environmental degradation, like oil spills, air pollution, nuclear waste, untreated sewage, toxic dumps, expansive freeways, loss of wilderness, and wildlife extinction. While all these issues that were central to the Earth Day cause in the beginning are still extremely relevant today, we have also globally come to understand over the past fifty years the extent of the threat posed by less immediately visible or obviously quantifiable environmental destruction.
the State of Climate Change Today
Fifty years after the first official Earth Day, climate change is broadly recognized as the greatest threat to the continued existence of states and human societies on Earth. With people worldwide feeling betrayed by the broken promises of governments and corporations dating back half a century and terrified by the future we’re faced with, one of the most impactful ways to create change is to support the transition away from traditionally “dirty” or energy-intensive industries that produce greenhouse gas emissions and significantly contribute to climate change.
Enter: cleantech. Canada’s burgeoning cleantech sector, as well as the global shift in recognizing climate change as a critical issue that needs to be addressed, is truly reason for optimism. It is a key not only to transitioning to a carbon neutral economy, but to future economic success in the global market. More importantly, cleantech has the potential to make this transition faster, fairer, and using innovations that will mitigate and reduce the impacts of human activity on our planet.
Governments around the world are taking action too. The Biden administration in the US has rejoined the Paris Agreement and has made climate a prominent part of their policy framework. In the recent federal and provincial budgets put out by the Government of Canada and Government of British Columbia, billions of dollars have been committed to supporting climate change mitigation. By contributing funds to support the scale-up of clean technology innovations, the sector can help to curb impact and, eventually, work towards the ambitious and necessary net-zero targets set out by governments and institutions around the world.
Celebrate Earth Day with Alacrity Cleantech
The Alacrity Cleantech Program works with companies operating in the cleantech industry to help them strengthen their businesses and reach new international markets with their strong innovations. Through direct engagement with both private and public stakeholders, we aim to ensure that every day is Earth Day when it comes to making good decisions for the triple bottom line of people, planet, and profit.
The Impact of Some of Our Cleantech Companies
The Alacrity Cleantech Program focuses on providing support and services to the clean technology sector. Our portfolio of cleantech companies develop technologies that optimize efficiencies in existing infrastructures and industries, as well as explore new tech innovations to mitigate or reduce the effects of climate change on our oceans, food production capabilities, and the environments we live, work, and relax in. A few examples of the impact from some of our cleantech companies can be found below.
First Light Technologies produces solar lighting products that are climate-friendly and can be used to improve visibility and safety in parks, at universities, and anywhere else lighting is needed. By using renewable solar energy to power their lights, FLT installations work to annually reduce CO2 equivalent (CO2e) emissions that are about the same as 11 million miles driven in a car.
Origen Air works to improve indoor air quality by removing dangerous toxins from indoor spaces using bioengineered plants and tech that monitors the level of air quality.
Pani Energy is changing how water treatment plants and infrastructure data can be used by operators to optimize the performance and efficiency of city-scale water treatment infrastructure. This means that existing infrastructures can immediately implement tools to monitor performance, highlight inefficiencies, and deliver improvement suggestions. The estimated annual reduction in CO2e emissions by using Pani’s AI water treatment solution is approximately the same as 500,000 miles driven in a car.
Open Ocean Robotics has developed renewable energy-powered unmanned autonomous vehicles (UAVs) to combat illegal fishing activities, protect endangered whales, and map the ocean floor. Unmanned boats offer improved safety, as well as lower operational costs, for marine research, monitoring, and protection efforts.
These are just a few examples of the innovations being developed in BC’s cleantech sector to mitigate climate change, help reduce future emissions, and work towards protecting our natural environment. We‘re particularly curious about emerging sectors like the growing hydrogen economy and the potential emissions savings that lie within the economic opportunity.
What can you do to mark Earth Day 2021?
It’s clear that the biggest impact on curbing climate change will have to come from governments and industries, but there are a few things that each of us can do to educate ourselves about the individual impacts we have on the planet. These include putting pressure on the companies that you support with your wallet or interact with to shift their operations to eco-friendly practices. Be critical of “green” claims and do your own research to make sure marketing teams aren’t simply greenwashing their products. You can also learn more about how your daily habits impact the planet using insights from tools like the Footprint Calculator. Small changes to lifestyle can also help reduce everyday contributions to climate change. Another way to support the climate is to contribute your time or money whenever possible to international climate action organizations or environmental charities found closer to home in Canada.