Fifty Years of Earth Day: Where do we go from here...
April 23, 2020
It's Earth Week—and we’re dealing with the Covid 19 pandemic. These are unsettling times. The Covid 19 virus has, in a matter of weeks, shut down the global economy, wreaked havoc on human lives, stressed healthcare and essential workers, tested us all as we quarantine, cancel graduations and important celebrations, shift our work online and required people across the globe to stay at home.
The unprecedented speed with which these measures have occurred shows us that in a crisis, bold actions can occur. Perhaps we can learn some lessons and take bold action on another crisis--climate change.
Fifty years ago, this week, the idea of “Earth Day” was born. It was a time when scientists were increasingly sounding the alarm about warming global temperatures and the loss of the polar ice caps, our air was so polluted you couldn’t see local landscapes, and rivers were so polluted, they caught on fire. People organized and demanded change.
A lot has been accomplished in these past 50 years including passage of the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, stricter emission standards for vehicles, reduced toxic chemical emissions from power plants; yet greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise threatening life as we know it.
Numerous scientific reports on rising C02 levels, oceans filled with plastic and the rollbacks of bedrock pollution prevention laws often feel like too much to bear. Yet, this Earth Week, I am hopeful.
We have transformative momentum to push for even bolder actions that assure we are on a path to a sustainable, healthy future, to protect our waters from pollution and corporate greed despite current rollbacks, to eliminate fossil fuel use and curtail its byproduct, plastics, and more and more states are setting goals to shift to 100% clean, renewable energy. The only question remains is can we mobilize the political will and individual behavioral changes needed to get there.
The radical shift in our behavior during this pandemic demonstrates that we can. We can bring about enormous changes with personal and collective actions. In just four weeks, we’ve seen the dramatic decline in air pollution worldwide, including here in Connecticut, with less vehicles on the road. That’s good news. So, what lessons can we learn from this crisis that can lead to long term, transformative change? How can we maintain hope through action so we ward off despair and hopelessness?
Earth week provides us an opportunity to identify ways in which we can individually and collectively commit to taking action, not only on Earth Day, but all year long. Every action makes a difference. Can we drive less, commit to buying more locally-grown food, think of creative ways to move away from plastic? As a friend of Clean Water Action, can you join us for an event, help us advocate for climate change policies, support us with a donation?
Jane Goodall’s words ring true to me “Above all we must realize that each of us makes a difference with our life. Each of us impacts the world around us every single day. We have a choice to use the gift of our life to make the world a better place - or not to bother.” Let’s choose to act.