Earth Day 2018: Facts About Environment, Pollution, Plants and Animals

Earth Day on Sunday marks the 48th year of a celebration for the planet that we share, and it has grown to more than 1 billion people across about 192 countries showing support for protecting the environment.

It started on April 22, 1970, by Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson. That day, 20 million Americans hit the streets in protest of industrial development over 150 years that produced pollution that appeared to have a detrimental effect on biodiversity.

Here are a few facts about the environment, pollution, plants and animals:

Earth Day 2018 focuses on ending plastic pollution

Earth Day Network, which leads the annual event across the globe, has centered this year's efforts on a multi-year campaign, End Plastic Pollution. Its goals include stopping single-use plastic products, pushing alternatives to materials based off fossil fuels and advocating for 100 percent of plastics to be recycled. Plastic disposal creates water and wildlife pollution, and plastic in food can cause life-threatening diseases, according to the network.

What's the history of #EarthDay? We started it almost 50 years ago! 🌎 #EarthDay2018 #FlashbackFriday #EarthDay50th

— EARTHDAY.ORG (@EarthDayNetwork) April 21, 2018

Wildlife populations have dropped significantly

Global wildlife populations since 1970 have declined by 58 percent, according to the 2016 Living Planet assessment by the World Wildlife Fund and the Zoological Society of London. And among vertebrates, the loss could reach two-thirds by 2020. Pollution, climate change and human activity such as habitat destruction have contributed, with the biggest impact on animals in rivers, lakes and wetlands.

"It's pretty clear under 'business as usual' we will see continued declines in these wildlife populations," Mike Barrett of the World Wildlife Fund said at the time. "But I think now we've reached a point where there isn't really any excuse to let this carry on."

Plants are also in danger

One in five of the planet's plant species faces a threat of extinction, according to the State of the World's Plants report released in 2016. The biggest threat to plants is habitat destruction for farming at 31 percent, followed by deforestation at 21 percent and building and infrastructure construction at 13 percent, and climate change at 4 percent, according to the report.