Published 21st April 2021

Earth day. Child in forest happy

As teachers of English as a Foreign Language, we get to enjoy all the beauty the world has to offer as we travel the globe teaching English. After all, this is one of the great perks of our job, isn’t it? As frequent fliers and global nomads, it is important – no, essential – that we are mindful of the effects our actions have on our planet. This year, Earth Day falls on 22 April, and we should take this day to remind ourselves of the different ways we can appreciate this planet without doing any more harm. Even better, we can consider what we can do to further protect her and try to undo some of the damage that has already been done.  

Read more: 7 Unexpected Outcomes of a TEFL Life

What is Earth Day?

The theme of Earth Day 2021 is Restore our Earth. This year three days are being dedicated to climate action, education, activism and climate change. Panel discussions, workshops, summits, races and special performances will take place online from 20 to 22 April. Around the world, various events like beach clean-ups, recycling projects and planting days will take place on 22 April to promote clean living and a healthy, sustainable environment for everyone.

How is Earth Day celebrated around the world?

Usually, there would be a number of events related to Earth Day in your area, no matter where you are. You could sign up for a local event and get your hands dirty for the cause. However, this year things are understandably a little bit different. The majority of events will be taking place online, so while there should still be a few local events near you but it probably won’t be as many as previously. The bonus of this is you can participate in any event around the world, albeit virtually.

Here are a few things you can do this year:

  • Take part in a virtual rally called “Sc.1.5nce, not Silence”, where you’ll be able to visit booths and even speak to exhibitors and other participants.
  • Participate in a virtual 5km running event to raise money for an environmental cause.
  • Join a Zoom lesson on climate change, recycling, climate activism or any number of other topics in virtual classrooms around the world.
  • Plant a tree in another country.
  • Enter an international painting competition related to Earth Day.

Our top pick:

  • Watch the documentary “The Year Earth Changed” about how the global lockdown affected our animal friends, narrated by David Attenborough. This is also a great option to use in class or to assign as homework to discuss in an online lesson. Watch the trailer here.

Check out the Earth Day 2021 website map for more information on the different events around the world you can get involved in.

Choosing place on map. Earth

Why is Earth Day important for TEFL teachers?

Obviously, Earth Day is an important event for every human on this planet but as TEFL teachers and frequent travellers, we can most certainly do our bit on a daily basis to help with efforts to protect the environment. One of the major reasons TEFL is such a popular job is because of the travel opportunities it affords us, allowing us to visit places we would never otherwise be able to visit. Let’s be honest, if nobody wanted to learn English as a Foreign Language, a lot of us wouldn’t have the means to travel. Decades of travel – of both TEFL teachers and tourists alike – has seen numerous and various effects on tourist destinations and places of interest all over the world. While tourism can be beneficial in some ways, in many ways it has been disastrous.

Read more: Top City Destinations for EFL Teachers

Impact of tourism

In the Philippines, for example, the beautiful beach of Boracay was considered one of the 25 most beautiful beaches in the world. In 2017 this tiny island hosted over 2 million tourists. Being such a small island (just 10km²!) this resulted in a breakdown of the sewage system and eventually, there was so much faecal matter in the sea it was no longer suitable for swimming – never mind the sealife! The island was actually closed for six months for a massive clean-up and was thankfully re-opened in 2018.

In Peru, almost approximately 1.5 million visitors walk the Inca trail to visit the sacred site of Machu Picchu every year. This has not only resulted in a disastrous increase in litter in the area, but the sheer number of feet walking the paths has actually eroded the trail – not to mention the various incidents of unthinkable behaviour by tourists.

In Nepal, the hundreds of climbers and their rubbish have resulted in Mount Everest being named as the world’s highest rubbish dump. Besides the usual litter, you may find on a hiking trail, on this previously pristine mountain you can also find gas cylinders, sleeping bags, tents and oxygen bottles. As you can imagine, it’s not an easy place to clean up.

These are only a few examples of how tourism and travel around the world have had a negative impact on our world. Thankfully, we are now more aware of our actions and we can work together to fix some of the damage already done and not do any further damage. If we don’t take action now, we won’t be able to enjoy the many breathtaking tourist attractions around the world.

Our fave alternative tourist destinations

We all need to work together so that we can still travel the world freely and visit the amazing destinations our world has to offer. But before you rush off to visit the Eiffel Tower, why not go somewhere a bit off the beaten track. This is helpful from a conservation perspective – in that the fewer people visit an area, the less damage that can be done – and, in our opinion, it’s always nice to be far from the madding crowd. Our favourite alternative tourist destinations?

  • Visit the tallest tree in the world, Hyperion (115.7m tall), in California.
  • Take a deep breath in the open skies and zero light pollution of Sossusvlei Private Desert Reserve in Namibia.
  • Enjoy the midnight sun in Iceland.
  • Jump on a train on one of the longest train routes in the world from Moscow to Beijing on the Trans-Siberian railway.
  • Connect with your ancestors in the Cradle of Humankind in South Africa, where some of the oldest human fossils have been found.

Are these not enough reasons to make sure we do everything we can to preserve the beauty that is this world?

The first Earth Day was celebrated in the United States in 1970, and today it is celebrated in countries all across the globe. While you might think as one individual you won’t be able to make a considerable difference, let the Earth Day celebrations remind you (and your students) that every little bit helps.

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