Reimagining Earth Day from the Train's Perspective
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01 May 2024 Share article

This year, I had plenty of time to reflect on Earth Day. Instead of participating in cleanup events or hiking, I embarked on an 8-hour train journey from my hometown in southern Germany to Hannover to visit my girlfriend. As I watched the landscape pass by, I thought about what Earth Day really means to me and how others might think about the day.

During the journey, I couldn't help but notice a contradiction: the train's infrastructure and materials are partially sourced through energy-intensive means, currently reliant on fossil fuel-powered methods. Yet it is propelled by renewable electricity, carrying nearly a thousand passengers. The realisation highlighted both the strides we've made with green technologies and the challenges that lie ahead, while also emphasising how perfection fallacies can obscure our judgment and sow doubt in our journey toward a renewable future.

For me, Earth Day serves as a poignant reminder of our interconnectedness with the planet.

As I gazed out the train window, I felt a sense of responsibility, a sense of doing my part in transitioning the world away from fossil fuels. It frequently seems that there are more pressing crises to confront, more urgent matters demanding our attention and action. The Earth forms the bedrock of our existence; without it, all other issues pale in significance.

In recent years, I've observed a notable shift in the primary obstacle impeding immediate and comprehensive climate action and grid decarbonisation efforts. While technologies such as solar, heat pumps, and wind energy have become increasingly cost-competitive, policy barriers have emerged as the primary impediment to widespread adoption and implementation. Advocating, voting for the right leaders, and advancing environmental policy have emerged as my most impactful means of amplifying my voice in the battle against climate change. But, at times, the demands of activism leave me feeling tired.

But on Earth Day, I am reminded why I do all the things I do. It’s like the refreshing feeling of standing on the top of a mountain, enjoying the scenery, and listening to the wind howling. Earth Day also serves as a source of reassurance for the community, fostering a sense of unity through numerous local and international events. For me, it goes beyond just being a celebration—it's a call to embody Gandhi's timeless wisdom: "be the change you wish to see in the world." Even if it means opting for an 8-hour train journey over a 1-hour flight.

Written by Mattis Emil Kley who attended Schuelerforschungszentrum Suedwuerttemberg, which won the Prize in the Global High Schools category in 2016.