April 22, 2020 will be the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. Last year in Houston there were many events, such a planting trees or cleaning parks. I decided to spend a portion of the day, at that time, picking up litter along Buffalo Bayou. We also decided to make annual (recurring) financial commitments to the Earth Day Foundation’s Canopy Project, The Arbor Day Foundation, and Trees for Houston. These world, national, and local organizations plant trees and planting trees is one of the best things we can do for our planet. Even small contributions add up if enough interested people make them. (See Earth Day 2019)
This year’s celebration of Earth Day will be unique relative to past years due to the pandemic we’re living with. In lieu of large group mobilizations (organizations, parades, and protest strikes), this year Earth Day Live is organizing a three-day live-stream event. These three days will address: “Strike, Divest, and Vote for Our Future”. Day 1 (April 22) will focus on collective power, community building and education. Day 2 (April 23) will focus on the financial institutions across the country, how some asset managers are complicit in funding, insuring, and investing in the climate crisis and explaining how stopping the money flow can fight the climate crisis. Day 3 (April 24) will focus on the political change needed in order to elect leaders who will support climate initiatives. In looking through the on-line information regarding this three-day event, I was amazed at the number and scope of organizations involved and supporting these initiatives. This gives me hope!
This year’s celebration of Earth Day is unique in another way. One of the results of this horrible disease, which is affecting and killing so many individuals around the world, is that we are able to witness the environmental change in the planet that has occurred as the world’s economy has been interrupted. The skies are cleaner, the city smog is dissipated, waterways and bays are clear, and our surroundings are beautiful. The health of our planet will improve if we can take steps to stop polluting it so much.
The Houston Chronicle published an interesting story entitled Cleaner air silver lining of pandemic. And an article in The Guardian provides some incredible photos from around the world contrasting pollution prior to the pandemic (e.g., October 2019) to today (April, 2020) when reduced economic activity has taken factories off line and significantly reduced auto emissions. Examples include New Delhi, Bangkok, Bogota, and San Paulo.
The evidence is clear. Our actions need not be as drastic as shutting down all industry and eliminating most transportation. We can take steps to reduce emissions if we all would just do more than we’re doing now to reduce our individual carbon footprint.
Earth Day is a great reminder, and an opportunity to put into place changes to what our planet can be for our children. As we grieve for the human losses this pandemic has caused, let’s also observe the positive effects of our cleaner air and water, and not forget what we observe. We can make a choice to do better.