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Every year since 1970, on April 22nd, we celebrate Earth Day, the birth of the modern environmental movement.
This year, incredibly, we are most likely all celebrating Earth Day from home. The COVID-19 pandemic has done the unimaginable. It has brought the entire world to a standstill. In the process, it has forced us to rethink and reassess how we live, what is necessary, and whether we want to go back to things as they were. The pandemic has given us a unique opportunity to stop, reflect, and RESET.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. What we are witnessing cannot be unseen. A carless Los Angeles with blue skies and no visible air pollution. Birds chirping in busy New York Avenues, their sounds previously drowned out in noise pollution. The forced pause has surfaced the undeniable link between our way of life and the health of our planet.
This pandemic will eventually come to an end. When it does, and we inevitably go back to “normal” life, let’s not lose the lessons and takeaways. Our planet’s survival depends on our ability to rethink and transform our unsustainable ways. In honor of Earth Day, we’ve compiled our top 19 lessons and takeaways. Please stop, reflect and SHARE:
1. OUR INDIVIDUAL ACTIONS DO MAKE A DIFFERENCE.
When the whole world decided to stay home, we immediately saw the results of our collective actions at work. The air was cleaner. The sounds were purer. Small, deliberate actions add up quickly to tangible results. What if we all were to realize the power we have collectively?
2. We consume more resources than we need.
In the middle of a crisis, we can see clearly. What we need are the basics: food, shelter, and connection. Gone is the impulse to buy superfluous items we don’t really need. We are more mindful of food waste. We don’t use single use plastics. We reuse as much as possible. We pay attention to the simple things. We look to art and music to nourish our souls as well as our minds. What if each person only consumed what they really needed?
3. That work trip can be a video conference call.
Technology affords us the possibility of having “face to face” meetings via video conference. As humans, we resist change. For years, although the technology existed, we continued to conduct business the way we had always done it. The travel restrictions due to COVID-19 forced us to do things differently. It opened our eyes to a new way.
Turns out we can still have face to face interactions without having to leave our loved ones, unintentionally spreading diseases and viruses and contributing large amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere from the burning of greenhouse gases. Next time you have a work meeting out of town, ask yourself, can you do it virtually?
4. Local farmers can and should support local communities.
This pandemic has opened our eyes to the importance of local agriculture. With provisions running low due to panic-stricken buying, people have had to turn to alternate sources of food supplies. Aren’t you glad to know you have a local farmer?
Does it really make sense to subsidize goods that have to travel millions of miles to reach your doorstep instead of supporting the local farmer a few miles out? Supporting local farmers and local businesses aids in building a healthy economic environment. Next time you hear about your local farmer’s market, make it a point to visit and support them.
5. Those errands can be a single car trip.
Transportation is the largest contributor of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. We are so used to convenience that we don’t think twice about the effect that our individual transportation decisions have on the environment. The pandemic has forced us to stop and stay home unless it is absolutely necessary to leave the house. The results have been immediate. Less CO2 emissions from our collective actions are evident in the air we breathe.
Being mindful of how we use transportation is key to reducing harmful CO2 emissions into the Earth’s atmosphere. Now that we’ve had a chance to pause and reflect, let’s pay attention to how we can reduce our CO2 emissions. Try carpooling or using public transportation. Whenever possible, use a bike or ask a neighbor to pick up something for you so you can avoid another single trip. Get serious about efficiency. If everyone does the same, we will reap the immediate results of our efforts.
6. You don’t need to go to the office to get the job done.
Remote working has been on the rise for years. Although benefits of remote working such as better health and fitness, higher productivity, and cost savings in rent and office equipment have been properly studied and documented, but many CEO’s continue to resist this trend. The pandemic forced remote working to happen overnight. Not surprisingly, work continued to be done, productivity continued and after some initial bumps and setbacks, employees were actually happier. Technology has given us the necessary tools to connect remotely with clients and co-workers in order to get our jobs our done. Working from home can be beneficial to both the company and the employee.
When the Coronavirus pandemic ends, we should continue to reap the benefits that remote work allows. If you’re the boss, encourage and allow remote working wherever possible. If you’re an employee, ask your boss or manager if you can set up a remote working schedule. Working from home provides us with better opportunities for work/life balance. For companies, it affords them the option to find talent anywhere in the world. The more we work from home, the more we can enjoy time with our families, and the less we commute to work, the less harmful carbon dioxide we will emit into the Earth’s atmosphere. And as we’ve already learned, our collective actions really do make a difference.
7. You can use that item again.
Not being able to leave our houses has made a huge impact on the way we look at stuff. Many of us have been using this extra time to purge our lives from unnecessary clutter and excess. The pandemic has forced us to reflect on how much we own and what we actually need.
These trying times have also made us think of creative ways to repurpose and reuse things we already have. When the pandemic ends, and we no longer have to be creative and thrifty, let’s not lose these life lessons. Before you rush out to buy more stuff, ask yourself, do I really need this?
8. Scientists should be taken seriously.
Scientists and healthcare workers are the heroes of this pandemic. Scientists have been warning of an outbreak of this magnitude for years. As they scramble to come up with a vaccine, we should be asking ourselves, what else have scientists been warning us about? If this pandemic has taught us anything, is that governments should act with the same urgency on climate as on the Coronavirus.
Climate scientists agree that if we don’t stop relying on fossil fuels and achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050, we are putting the planet and our children at risk to a climate catastrophe that will render large parts of the planet uninhabitable. Political and corporate leaders can and should take radical emergency action on the advice of scientists to protect human wellbeing.
9. Sustainable technology can support full business operations.
The Coronavirus pandemic is expected to cut global carbon emissions by 5% (2.5 billion tons). This year saw the biggest drop in demand for fossil fuels in a single year. While the push to go back to business as usual will be stronger than ever, as oil interests fight to reclaim their hold on our lives, this is a unique opportunity to rethink our dependency on fossil fuels. This decrease in coal consumption can pave the way for businesses to implement sustainable technology for the long run.
In China, the world’s largest carbon emitter, the actions taken by authorities have inadvertently demonstrated that hefty 25% carbon dioxide cuts can bring less traffic and cleaner air with only a small reduction in economic growth. This with an added side effect of saving over 77,000 lives from the reduction of CO2 emissions from factories and vehicles. It’s worth analyzing. Developing clean energy technologies can provide economic growth while simultaneously being better for the planet and the people and animals who inhabit it.
10. We should be designing resilient healthy cities.
Pandemics and natural disasters alike, make us think about the importance of designing resilient, healthy, walkable cities. COVID-19 is reminding us how crucial it is to envision and invest in this kind of city. Cities that cater for zero emissions and healthy modes of transport.
Cities with safe, segregated bike lanes and excellent sidewalks, as well as amenities close to housing complexes so people have the option of using these transportation modes. This kind of design and vision provides resiliency during crises, better public health and greenhouse gas reductions.
11. The air we breathe is dirty.
Air quality affects our respiratory systems which makes us more vulnerable to disease. During COVID-19, we’ve been able to experience first-hand what clean air is like. Although scientists have seen a decline in air pollution during the pandemic due to lockdown restrictions, this temporary reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and pollution can only lead to long term improved air quality if we make sure that air pollution doesn’t spike again after the pandemic is over.
We can reduce air pollution down by taking the following measures: advocating for and consuming clean energy, reducing air travel, carpooling, planting trees, using electric vehicles, and traveling by foot or bike.
12. If we step down, the environment steps up.
By staying inside, we have reduced our carbon emissions and allowed for nature to thrive. More animals across the globe have been spotted stepping up in their respective habitats. It is a magical, joy inducing sight to see. We can co-exist and contribute to a sustainable environment that supports all our ecosystems. If we continue to reduce our negative impact on nature, she will return the favor with thriving ecosystems.
13. We are too loud.
Although we don’t usually think about it, noise pollutes our environment. Our methods of transportation not only negatively impact the air quality, but they also contribute to this type of pollution. Stress related issues, sleep disruption, and loss of productivity are all aggravated by noise pollution.
The pandemic has forced us to halt a lot of the behavior that contributes to this. As a result, noise pollution has reduced dramatically in many areas resulting in animals returning to their natural habitats. Isn’t is refreshing to step outside and be able to enjoy the sounds of nature without noise pollution?
14. We are more connected than we realize.
COVID-19 has made it apparent that we are all connected. Regardless of where we are on the planet right now, we are living similar experiences. Our collective actions and collaborations are necessary to effectively battle and minimize the damage caused by this pandemic. One person’s actions affect us all.
This virus affects us all equally and we must work together to prevent future pandemics. Human and planetary health are inextricably bound. In order to tackle the climate crisis, which is equally as pressing as this disease, global action is imperative.
15. There’s power in looking out for each other.
The Coronavirus is a global problem and we are stronger together addressing it. Not only is looking out for each other in our own best interest, but it helps us feel good. There is nothing about this that we can control, except how we react and show up. Everything in the world goes around. By taking care of others in their time of need, you are guaranteeing someone will be around to take care of you when circumstances are reversed.
We can learn from each other’s experiences, trials and tribulations. By paying attention to what happens to someone else or somewhere else, we can better prepare ourselves and hopefully avoid unnecessary deaths, pain and suffering. People are building strong resilient communities by coming together. The pandemic will end but the bridges and connections we form throughout this crisis will prevail.
16. That country’s problem is also my problem.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made it abundantly clear that we are one planet. What happens in one country is not something remote that has no bearing on our existence. What happens in one country will very likely affect what happens in mine. Our markets, food chains and supply chains are connected. As are the exchange of ideas and services.
As humans that share one planet, we need to become more conscious of our way of living and how our actions in one part of the world can have a ripple effect in even the most remote destination.
17. Your leaders matter. Vote wisely.
When crises hit, we turn to our leaders for guidance and hope. We need to trust that our leaders know what they are doing and are taking the necessary steps to handle the situation at hand. The pandemic has made it ever more obvious that leadership matters. These are the people that make the decisions that affect our everyday lives.
Make sure you have a say in who they are. This is not the time to make environmental compliance lax. This is an opportunity to rethink and restructure. Do your research, contact your representatives and ask them to support climate action and education. And come November, make sure you VOTE.
18. We don’t own the Earth. We need to do a better job borrowing it.
Coronavirus has proved that we have the structural, financial, and political ability to react quickly to a life-threatening crisis such as our climate. Our societies ARE capable and empathetic enough to make sacrifices for the common good.
There is a link between our economies and the health of our planet. It’s time to move to a fairer and ecologically sustainable economic system. Let’s be more mindful. Mindful of ourselves, our neighbors and of all of Earth’s inhabitants.
19. It’s on us.
This situation has given us a unique opportunity to rethink, reassess and reestablish a new way of life for ourselves and for the Earth.
This pandemic will forever change us. There is no going back to “normal”. Normal was exactly the problem. We had normalized an unsustainable way of living. We need to emerge from this better. Less selfish. More HUMAN. The future of our planet depends on it.
It’s on us!