alchemy

Observing Earth Day amid a pandemic

Column by Andrea W. Doray
Posted 4/21/20

On April 22, 1970, a group of people came together to create Earth Day, what is now the planet’s largest civic affair. Fifty years later, the crisis many of these forward-thinking activists feared …

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alchemy

Observing Earth Day amid a pandemic

Posted

On April 22, 1970, a group of people came together to create Earth Day, what is now the planet’s largest civic affair. Fifty years later, the crisis many of these forward-thinking activists feared is upon us.

Climate change in wreaking havoc for our planet, including the heightened chance of extreme weather events no country, region, or continent has escaped. Carbon emissions have reached an all-time high. Industries that had been moving toward the preservation of clean air, clean water, wildlife and wilderness are now allowed to look the other way when the science shows the damage.

Observing Earth Day amid the coronavirus pandemic is not without its paradoxes. For example, at the moment, air pollution from cars and industry is at its lowest levels in years along Colorado’s Front Range … most residents are observing stay-at-home guidelines.

And have you seen of the photos out of India and China and other locales that live daily with nightmarish pollution? Go to the Internet this minute and look for side-by-side photos from various locations in India … they are absolutely stunning. One of the captions mentions that, now that the smog has cleared, residents are seeing the Himalayan mountains to the north in Nepal and Tibet for first time in their lives.

I spent three weeks in Nepal in late 2013. Pollution from the clogged traffic in Kathmandu – cars, trucks, tourist buses, scooters … lots of scooters – was visible on the streets, and it seared my lungs. But the mountains were crystalline, the visibility unlimited to the horizon, and the breathing was wonderful (unless, of course, I was struggling on a trek carrying a pack, at altitude).

This phenomenon reminded me of Denver’s infamous weather inversions and the “brown cloud” they bring with them, trapping pollution against the foothills. Much like Nepal, we here in Colorado can escape to the mountains and their more pristine environments, but wouldn’t it be great if part of the “new normal” didn’t include a relapse into lung-slugging smog?

I’ve written before in this space about Earth Day. Fifty years ago, more than 20 million Americans took to the streets, parks, and auditoriums in massive coast-to-coast rallies to demonstrate for a healthy sustainable environment. In 1990, Earth Day went global, engaging 200 million people in the 141 countries, setting the stage for the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.

Climate change represents the biggest challenge to the future of humanity and the life-support systems that make our world habitable. For its 50th anniversary, Earth Day Network notes that the enormous challenges – but also the vast opportunities – of acting on climate change are the most pressing topics.

One of the intriguing aspects of Earth Day Network’s observation is their year-round call for daily action … encouraging people to vote, speaking up as advocates for the planet and the people, and staying engaged with the science.

The official focus for Earth Day 2020 is Climate Action. So maybe, just maybe, as we begin to emerge from this devastating coronavirus crisis, we can use what we learn about community and connection and commitment, and refocus our attention on, literally, saving the planet. We can continue to nurture our remarkable relationships with nature and with each other.

And who wouldn’t want that?

Andrea Doray is a writer who believes the words of Henrik Tikkanen: “Because we don’t think of future generations, they will never forget us.” Contact Andrea at a.doray@andreadoray.com.

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