Forbes: 3 Lessons for Earth Day From The Coronavirus Pandemic
Updated: Sep 22
Alpharetta Coworking Space Celebrates Earth Day During COVID-19 Crisis
Digital Ignition is known for its large Alpharetta offices, unique architecture, as well as its proximity to Georgia 400 and the Big Creek Greenway – making it possible for its resident entrepreneurs to step outside and enjoy the great outdoors.
This year, like the rest of us, the organizers of Earth Day were working from home to flood the airways with information about how this pandemic has helped mother earth. Humans make a huge impact on the health of our earth. The article describes how our reduced use of cars has lowered pollution levels – and its positive effects can even be seen from NASA.
Whether it is recycling, leveraging solar energy, or reducing emissions through purchasing electrical cars, this pandemic has illustrated how small moves can make a big difference. We researched many articles and thought the Forbes editorial below best described how this pandemic has impacted the health of our earth.
3 Lessons For Earth Day From The Coronavirus Pandemic
We are celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day this week. The world is facing an unprecedented coronavirus pandemic so the organizers of Earth Day are planning to “flood” the Internet with a viral “global digital surge” on April 22nd, 2020. Their slogan is “Earth Day is every day, and anywhere you are.” The mission of the Earth Day Network is articulated on its website: “Earth Day Network’s mission is to diversify, educate and activate the environmental movement worldwide.” I have written numerous thoughts about Earth Day over the years. It’s simply amazing that people don’t recognize that the “third rock from the sun” is the only viable option for humanity for the foreseeable future. At the time of writing, there are over 2.5 million cases of coronavirus and 171,850 deaths worldwide according to Worldmeters.info. As I nervously watch the coronavirus pandemic play out, three important lessons relevant to Earth Day came to mind.
The first lesson is that humans impact our planet and some of its outcomes. Coronavirus has forced industries to reduce output, and families to shelter in place. NASA revealed that less anthropogenic activity has reduced levels of atmospheric nitrogen dioxide (NO2) over China and other regions of the planet. Carbon emissions have also declined according to Carbon Brief. Such outcomes are likely not sustainable once “normal” activities resume, but the pandemic clearly shows that our activities impact natural processes on the Earth. Many of you reading this probably said to yourself, “Of course they do.” Unfortunately there are people that make statements like this: “Humans cannot impact the weather, climate or pollution” and “Everything in nature is a cycle.” Humans are a relatively new to the Earth game and are particularly heavy-handed players.
The second lesson is that science deserves respect. In recent years, I have felt that expertise, intellectualism, and science have come under aggressive attack. This feeling is based on trends in proposed budgets for science agencies, pillaging of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), dismantling of key pandemic response capacity, and a general elevation of opinions over scientific facts in policy or social media discourse. You would think that one of the most aggressive and deadly viruses in modern history would unite everyone around measures to fight it. As with climate change, there are “virus contrarians” spouting narratives often used in climate change denial about government overreach, motives of scientists, uncertainty, and angst over changing normal ways of life for the collective good.
As time passes, hopefully the coronavirus crisis will reveal that science is an ally not an enemy. Work by federal, academic, and private sector scientists, technicians, and medical professionals have been critical in developing mitigation strategies, testing capacity, and new vaccine options. Many people see climate change as a low probability event that will happen in the future or affect some polar bear colony. We are feeling the brunt of climate change in extreme weather, agricultural productivity, sea level rise, disease transmission, and the economy now. This coronavirus pandemic is a low probability, high-impact event that people can “see.” Climate-related impacts are often not as obvious to the public. It is not apparent to most people that climate-related fatalities and economic impact will likely far exceed the coronavirus pandemic of 2020.
For example, water availability and quality are critical challenges facing humanity. A 2017 report by the International Actuarial Association said, “Water scarcity in vulnerable populations will adversely affect human health and mortality.” SPOUTS of Water and the affiliated Uganda SPOUTS provide Ugandans with locally-made ceramic water filters in an effort to provide communities with access to clean, safe water. In an email, the organization told me that 53% of Ugandan people do not have access to clean water, and waterborne illness is the leading cause of death for children. Barika Poole is the Executive Director of SPOUTS of Water. She acknowledged that the coronavirus pandemic presents challenges for Earth Day activities, but people will find a way. Due to stay-at-home orders, she said, “Shifting to more awareness campaigns online, utilizing our social media platforms is and was necessary for both World Water Day and Earth Day, to keep stressing the importance of clean water, sanitation and hygiene as well as reducing carbon emissions to the environment and halting deforestation.”
The third lesson is that we can all do something. Throughout the world, our actions have been critical in fighting coronavirus. COVID-19 case and death curves have begun to flatten because of the collective actions of citizens of planet Earth. We were the ones that “sheltered in place.” We were the ones that wore our masks and increased sanitation routines. We were the ones that held others accountable. I hope that we begin to see the collective value of protecting Earth as a result of this ordeal. Poole shared with me some of her observations from a recent walk. She said, “My observation was that people weren’t as careless with their trash, and it was nice to experience this sort of “environmental peace” in what usually would have been a very hectic city environment in Kampala with motorbikes, cars, noise, dust and fumes.” She noted that there is a connection between individual actions for the planet and personal responsibility.
I often say that there is no “Plan B” planet even though it seems that we treat this one as being disposable at times. Barika Poole gets the last words, and they are very fitting for the 50th anniversary of Earth Day: “Individuals and corporations can remember that the Earth sustains us so we should treat it well....It is for all of us; the 7+ billion people inhabiting it.”