When it comes to building a healthier and more sustainable future, few people have made as much of an impact as Dr. Agnes Kalibata. As a renowned agricultural scientist, policymaker, and advocate for nutrition and food security, Dr. Kalibata has spent decades working to improve the lives of people in her home country of Rwanda and around the world.
After growing up in an Ugandan refugee camp with her Rwandan parents, Dr. Kalibata earned a degree in agricultural sciences from Makerere University in Uganda and then went on to complete a PhD in entomology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. However, it was her work in Rwanda’s Ministry of Agriculture that really put her on the map.
Each year on April 22nd, people and nations around the world celebrate Earth Day to raise awareness and promote action toward environmental protection and sustainability. Activities typically include community clean-ups and educational campaigns designed to promote sustainability in daily life.
The origins of Earth Day date back to the 1960s and a decade of growing enviro-consciousness brought about by the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring and a series of environmental disasters that climaxed with a devastating oil spill off the coast of California in 1969. Gaylord Nelson, a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, organized the first Earth Day in 1970, when an estimated 20 million Americans took part in organized activities ranging from tree plantings to beach cleanups and teach-ins on college campuses.
Since those humble beginnings, Earth Day has become a global event – but amidst the tree plantings and landscape revitalization lies a subtle and yet direct connection between Earth Day and Public Health. Just as we depend on the natural environment for our survival, civilization creates and shapes a social and economic environment that greatly influences the health and well-being of our species.