Earth Day for All
Last Wednesday marked the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day.
It also marked the lowest carbon footprint I have had in a one month time frame in years:
1. Didn’t fly anywhere (was supposed to have been flying back from Guinea for research and a round-trip to Scotland for a conference)
2. Traveled less than 50 miles a week by car or any form of mobile transportation
3. Ate vegetarian (w/ the exception of 5 meals).
4. Didn’t purchase anything that I didn’t actually need (i.e. clothes or things outside of food and essentials).
Air travel has all but halted, commuting requires getting out of bed (sometimes not at all), and our consumption of material goods have significantly declined. We don’t get 1 or 2-day Amazon shipping anymore, and we’re at a point where time has become nearly irrelevant.
With this new state of the world, we’re in a place to reflect and take a cold hard look at our lifestyle from before and what it means now. For this Earth day, I encourage you to take a moment in this unique period of time to think about how your lifestyles have changed since this pandemic started. As we look to rebuild and adjust to an uncertain future, we are looking at a nearly blank slate to rebuild how we operate in this world.
This pandemic has shown us that we don’t need one day shipping, we don’t need to get everywhere as fast as we can and nature does not need humans to survive.
I’ve often compared the panic that people have felt about the impending doom of covid-19 to the way any climate advocate feels about climate change. We see the two trains slowly on course to collide with each other. We’re screaming at the top of our lungs that we need to stop this from happening, and yet no one is doing anything or nearly enough to stop it from happening and getting worse.
If you’re worried about this pandemic being bad right now, imagine when summer comes around and things get hot. Energy poverty (spending 20–25% of your income for energy costs) was already an issue before this started, imagine what that will be like when people have no income and summer comes around. How can we make them choose between energy, groceries, or health?
The impacts of the pandemic and climate change are not distributed equally. Many of us are privileged enough to study/work from home, shelter in a safe place, live in a temperature regulated space. However, there are stark numbers showing minority communities have been hit worst by covid-19.
The same will happen with climate change as the most at-risk populations will not have the luxury to escape to somewhere else. What happens when sea level rise makes an island nation uninhabitable? What happens to the ecosystems that depend on certain habitats for existence? People will leave their homes to start a new life as climate refugees. Animals will go extinct as they lose their habitats.
On this 50th anniversary of Earth Day, let’s take note of what was and what is, and ask ourselves what could a truly sustainable world look like?
Let’s take it one step further to say, how could we make a truly sustainable world for all people, not just for the ones who can afford it?
It’s going to be real solutions to these questions that will make us better as a society. We are not born equal, but we can use our ability to effect change to create a sustainable future that leaves no one behind. It’s going to take some work to get there, but complex problems are rarely easy to solve.
This too shall pass. And when it does, let’s be ready to make this world a world for all living things. 🌍🌎🌏