In the days leading up to Global Citizen 2015 Earth Day, there was a magnetic buzz in the air. From strangers on the bus to friends on social media, it seemed like almost every other person I talked to in Washington, D.C. wanted to spend their Saturday afternoon with thousands of friends on the National Mall.
Sure, the event was free and there was the undeniable celebrity appeal of musicians including Usher, No Doubt, Train, Mary J. Blige and Fall Out Boy, but I believe that the event’s underlying goals – ending extreme poverty and fighting climate change – only sweetened the appeal for anyone who believes that collective action can influence social consciousness.
When I arrived on the Mall with my camera in hand, many eager guests had already spread their blankets on the grassy hills surrounding the National Monument. Colorful T-shirts bearing environmental messages and handwritten posters with birthday greetings for “mother earth” made it clear that people were not just there to enjoy live musical performances and short films, but to also express their solidarity as the 45th anniversary of Earth Day approached.
As global leaders, including members of Congress and diplomats from Liberia, Australia and beyond, took to the stage to share their pledges to increase food security, improve access to clean water and sanitation, grow opportunities for young people, and use technology and innovation to spur creative ways to reduce poverty, the crowd responded with enthusiasm.
Phone networks were tied up during most of the day as people sent tweets and signed online petitions in response to on-stage prompts. It was just as much a day about activism as it was a day about entertainment.
USAID Associate Administrator Mark Feierstein was there, too, with a special announcement: As part of the the ongoing effort to respond to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, the Agency will invest $126 million in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea to re-establish and strengthen health systems. To date, the U.S. Government has provided $1.4 billion in the fight against Ebola.
Witnessing Global Citizen 2015 Earth Day gives me faith in my generation’s will to shape a more equitable world and reinforces why the United States’ continued commitment to supporting global development and ending poverty is so important.
Enjoy a few of my favorite photos and quotes from last weekend’s celebration below and consider making your own personal commitment to making the world healthier and happier this Earth Day.
1. “Will you support women’s empowerment? Will you speak up to bring all the children to school? Will you raise your voice for people and our planet? … You have the power. Your generation can make it happen. Be a global citizen. Take your passion and compassion to make this world sustainable, prosperous.” — U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
2. “It’s about all of us being aware but getting our hands dirty because it’s not going to be an easy thing.” — Train frontman Pat Monahan
3. “Together we will pledge to mobilize additional budget resources to do our part – to improve our healthcare systems, education systems and create jobs for our young people, and grow our economies so that everyone can benefit.” —Sierra Leone Minister of Energy Ambassador Henry Olufemi Macauley
4. “Together with New Jersey Congressman Chris Smith, I introduced a bill to assist farmers in growing more food and defeat hunger in the world’s poorest countries. The Global Food Security Act will help women secure the tools, education and training needed to produce the food their families and communities need.”— U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum
5. “Ten years ago, we set ourselves a target, and we gave 30 million poor people safe water and 50 million people clean toilets. Today, I am doing it again; I am setting another target. Let’s do another 30 and another 50.” — Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Lilianne Ploumen