Why We Celebrate Earth Day
Earth Day is important to us here at the Earth Institute, because it’s the one day of the year when everyone celebrates something that matters a lot to us: our beautiful planet.
Earth Institute scientists have been investigating the planet’s mysteries for more than 70 years. They have plumbed the depths of the oceans, scaled the tallest mountains, and traversed every continent in order to broaden and deepen our understanding of the world. Along the way, they’ve made incredible discoveries that shook the world of science.
Researchers at our Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory were the first to propose that ice ages are driven by natural cycles of freezing and thawing in the Arctic Ocean. Lamont’s Marie Tharp was the first to map the ocean floor on a global scale. Mark Cane and Stephen Zebiak, researchers at our International Research Institute for Climate and Society, helped to create the first model to explain and predict the powerful El Niño climate cycle, which affects affect crops, disease outbreaks and natural hazards all over the world. And the term “global warming” came from our own Wallace Broecker, who was among the first scientists to warn of the dangers of rising global temperatures.
The slideshow below provides more examples of how Earth Institute researchers have been at the forefront of earth and environmental science.
President Barack Obama bestows the National Medal of Science, the nation’s top scientific honor, to MESSENGER principal investigator and director of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Sean Solomon. The award was presented on Thursday, Nov. 20, 2014 during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington.
MESSENGER (MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging) is a NASA-sponsored scientific investigation of the planet Mercury and the first space mission designed to orbit the planet closest to the Sun. Photo: NASA/Bill Ingalls
Climate change, in all its aspects, remains a major focus of the Earth Institute today, and our scientists continue to make groundbreaking discoveries in earth and environmental science.
But the work we do goes far beyond unearthing new information and detailing the problems that humanity faces; we are also deeply invested in finding ways to fix those problems. Our centers and programs are:
- Creating and sharing tools that help communities and nations adapt to changing weather;
- Addressing national and global water crises;
- Helping countries and communities to develop sustainably, and expanding access to education, health care, and safe drinking water in underprivileged populations;
- Untangling some of the toughest social conflicts;
- Developing legal tools to fight climate change;
- Amplifying the voices of grassroots activists;
- Enhancing the resilience of global food systems against climate change;
- Inventing technologies that capture and store carbon dioxide;
- Ensuring access to sustainable and equitable transportation;
- Fostering community preparedness for disasters, and facilitating recovery afterward;
- And lots more.
On Earth Day and every day, the Earth Institute works to understand and protect our planet. Join us this Earth Day and be part of the solution.