Image: Earth Day 50 PA
The 50th celebration of Earth Day
As we continue to navigate the coronavirus pandemic, adapting and responding as necessary, I hope we all safely, virtually celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, April 22, 2020.
With ghost-like towns and empty public spaces, the global COVID-19 sheltering in place mandate seems a bit surreal, reminiscent of science fiction horror films and disaster movies…
A nuclear holocaust? Tidal waves? Zombies? Invasion of the Body Snatchers? How about invasion by aliens from another galaxy? Remember the excellent movie, Independence Day?
The point is that in these movies the whole planet gets together to fight the invading aliens or deal with The Day After. Now, we have to come together as one planet to face an unlikely but deadly earthly alien: the novel coronavirus.
With the unprecedented effects of COVID-19 – its necessary quarantine measures, economic uncertainties, and loss of life facing us all – our future hinges on how we respond. Scientists and medical researchers have been warning of a global pandemic for years now, and while some countries have been more prepared and better equipped, most of us have been slower on the uptake, including the US. But we have progressed and are all dealing with a “New Normal,” it would appear, with masks, rubber gloves, and social distancing.
Helpless as many of us may feel, “staying-at-home” (or a “movement control order” as it’s called in some countries) is the one thing we can all do to minimize the rapid spread of the contagion and protect ourselves and our families.
Thank you to the front line
And these are the times we all give thanks and recognize those people on the front lines risking their own health and lives to protect us: the many doctors, nurses and all within the healthcare system along with first responders of all types – plus those people deemed essential such as grocery store and food delivery staff, etc. And they certainly are essential!
In our family we have several wonderful front liners, including nurses and police officers. Thank you for what you and your colleagues are doing every day to keep us healthy and safe!
Unprecedented environmental silver linings
As a result of social distancing and less emissions from polluting factories and various modes of transportation, we might well be fighting climate change, too.
Architectural Digest recently put together a somber look at some eerily empty public spaces with “Striking COVID-19 Lockdown Images From Around the World.” And as much of the world remains in quarantine, one somewhat unexpected but welcome, positive impact to sheltering in place is a lower carbon footprint.
NASA shows how nitrogen dioxide, an atmospheric pollutant, has plummeted over China with the coronavirus quarantine. With factories empty, less emissions are produced.
Our planet is a little bit cleaner since less cars and trucks are on the road and fewer planes are in the air, too.
“Isolation and other shifts in behavior during the coronavirus outbreak could also alter our greenhouse gas emissions. But will the changes stick?” ~ John Schwartz, The New York Times
That’s a great question, indeed. One city, Milan, is planning on it.
Milan and the surrounding Lombardy region are among Europe’s most polluted. They have observed that motor traffic congestion has dropped by 30-75% under the nationwide lockdown, and air pollution with it. So they will embark upon an ambitious plan to reduce car use after lockdown, reallocating street space from cars to cycling and walking:
“The city has announced that 35km (22 miles) of streets will be transformed over the summer, with a rapid, experimental citywide expansion of cycling and walking space to protect residents as Covid-19 restrictions are lifted.” ~ The Guardian
National Geographic says, “Carbon emissions are falling sharply due to coronavirus. But not for long.” With governments across the globe beginning to open up social and economic activities, our greenhouse gas emissions will certainly start to rise again.
Simply, without real leadership, the carbon emissions halt will be temporary.
Related at Eletrek: “The coronavirus is showing us how clean the air can be if electric cars were the norm.”
Social silver linings
In our neighborhood I’ve never seen so many families outside walking together with kids and dogs, biking, and laughing and playing. Even while maintaining six feet apart from others, people are really being nice to one another! I hope we can keep it up.
Another hopeful outcome is that the global community is being kinder to each other in many ways, helping each other, offering a multitude of resources, and even honoring cease fires. Too bad it takes a fierce global health crisis to bring out the best in people.
The other global issue at hand: the global climate crisis
On Earth Day we continue to deal with the pandemic and the other issue at hand affecting our planet: global warming. We can’t afford any more consequences of climate denial.
From space we can see no geo-political borders on Earth. All that can be seen from above is one blue planet.
I’m actually heartened at this political side effect regarding the COVID-19 pandemic:
If climate deniers and other naysayers believe doctors and scientists about the coronavirus, maybe they’ll become open to believe more in science and scientists afterwards in regards to man-made climate change and global warming.
After the global pandemic is in hand and under control, hopefully the world will have changed for the betterment of our planet – physically and socially – and we can continue to reduce carbon emissions, our consumption of fossil fuels, and increase renewable energy strategies.
We must find ways to continue addressing the climate emergency with circular economics and business sense, without our businesses losing revenue – we need to support new business models embracing clean energy and climate resilience.
After all, a strong, healthy economy benefits us all.
Let’s work as One Planet, Together
If only we could come together like we are doing with the coronavirus every day to deal with the overarching planetary challenge our lifetime: global warming.
“We’ve seen that governments can act, and people can change their behavior, in a very short amount of time. And that’s exactly what the climate movement has been asking governments and people to do for years in the face of a different kind of threat—the climate crisis—and we don’t see commensurate action.
On the one hand, it shows that it’s possible to do this, and it’s possible for this kind of mobilization of resources to take place in a short amount of time. In that sense, that’s encouraging. But we were never in doubt of that aspect.” ~ May Boeve, executive director of the climate advocacy group 350.org at Fast Company
Let’s create meaningful change for our environment and use resilient design with science based data driven by integrated project teams from across the globe to come up with real solutions for lasting climate health now, in our lifetimes.
An incredible level of collaboration and effort will be necessary and close cooperation will be required from all countries and all leaders, without political boundaries. If we can deal with this pandemic as one planet, we can deal with global warming as one planet, too. Then Earth Day could be every day.
If not now, when?
And this time our Independence Day will have are no aliens involved – just we humans on our one and only planet, Earth.
Happy Earth Day and beyond ~
Linda S. Velazquez, ASLA, LEED AP, GRP
Greenroofs.com Publisher & Greenroofs & Walls of the World™ Virtual Summits Host
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