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Observing Earth Day 2020 During a Global Pandemic

Observing Earth Day 2020 During a Global Pandemic

The Oil Spill that Inspired Earth Day

On January 28, 1969, crude oil and gas erupted from a platform off the coast of Santa Barbara, spilling out into the Pacific waters. It blackened over 800 square miles of ocean, killing thousands of seabirds, marine mammals, and fish. At the time, it was the largest oil spill in history. Today, it is topped by only two other oil spills and remains the worst California’s waters have seen. 

1969 Santa Barbara Oil Spill, Earth Day 2020 | Synergetic Press

The devastating event’s one silver lining was that it served as a catalyst for a widespread and enduring campaign promoting environmental awareness. After the spill, Gaylord Nelson, an environmentally-conscious Wisconsin senator, realized that public awareness around industrial technology’s impact on the planet needed a serious boost. Harnessing the anti-war protest energy of the 60s, he, along with a Republican congressman, a young Harvard graduate, and a team of 85 people, organized a national “teach-in” to take place on April 22, 1970. 

It was the first official Earth Day. Twenty million people took to the streets to protest humanity’s destructive behavior towards the environment. In the 50 years since its inception, Earth Day has served as a celebration of our planet and raises public awareness around pollution with events and activist initiatives coordinated worldwide. 

Our Collective Carbon Footprint

For Earth Day 2020, activists planned to celebrate the theme of “Climate Action” by organizing The Great Global Cleanup, a day dedicated to removing trash from green space and urban centers. But since the outbreak of COVID-19, and the ensuing government mandates to socially distance and stay indoors, Earth Day convergences are going digital (much like everything else). 

The pandemic is a tragedy. However, like the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill, there is a silver lining to this devastating global crisis. While modern society stumbles over itself after coming to a screeching halt, the earth has a chance to breathe again. With non-essential establishments closing their doors, major airports “eerily silent,” and most people self-confining at home, our collective carbon footprint has significantly decreased. 

Clear waters in Venice canals. Photo by Marco Capovilla. Earth Day 2020 | Synergetic Press

The Guardian reports that “global carbon emission could fall by 2.5bn tonnes this year, a reduction of 5%, as the coronavirus pandemic triggers the biggest drop in demand for fossil fuels on record.” Satellites detect a drop in nitrogen-oxide emissions in China, and lower air pollution in Italy. And for the first time in recent history, the normally smog-battered skies of Los Angeles are clear and bright. An interactive map created by Earther provides a staggering visual of how much air pollution has dropped across the globe from December 2019 to March 2020. One YouTuber, PLANET NOW, posted a video showing before-and-after shots of Venice canals – once murky and green, now a limpid blue – suggesting we can maintain these conditions by reducing tourism and working from home more.

The Pandemic Slows Down Industrial Society

Things aren’t just cleaner – they’re quieter too. For those living in industrial society, slowed-down living may revitalize their relationship to the planet. Rebecca Franks, an American living in Wuhan, posted to Facebook about life in quarantine, saying: “Right now I hear birds outside my window. I used to think there weren’t really birds in Wuhan because you rarely saw them and never heard them. I now know they were just muted and crowded out by the traffic and people.” 

Michelle Fournet, a marine ecologist studying acoustic environments, tells The Atlantic that since the suspension of the cruise ship industry, “we’re experiencing an unprecedented pause in ocean noise that probably hasn’t been experienced in decades.” According to research, maritime activity (including military sonar, seismic surveys, oil drilling, dredging and ship engines) causes stress and physical damage to sea animals, altering their behavior and communication systems. 

Meanwhile, pictures and videos of wild animals traversing empty towns and cities are circulating widely on social media. Mountain goats blithely stroll the streets of Wales. A deer in Japan curiously peeks inside a restaurant window. A family of geese waltz down the center of Las Vegas Boulevard. Could the popularity of these kinds of posts speak to an underlying, collective yearning to witness mother nature  “reboot” herself, as two Twitter users put it? 

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The pandemic has stirred the whole world into unified action in the way that other very real threats to humanity have not – namely, climate change. Decades of activist efforts to influence human activity have not been able to match COVID-19’s galvanizing effect. Now that humanity’s impact on the planet is more tangible than ever, it may be the perfect time to emphasize environmental awareness. While the usual celebration is not in order for this year’s Earth Day, we can observe its theme of “Climate Action” by reflecting on how, and why, our planet feels a little brighter, and what we might do to sustain that going forward. 

Celebrating Earth Day 2020 Online 

Join the Earth Day Network this April 22nd for Earth Day Live (starting at 9:00 AM ET-8:00 PM ET). Earth Day Live will flood the digital landscape with global conversations, calls to action, performances, and video teach-ins with the goal of mobilizing a stop to the climate emergency.

At 2:00 PM ET Dr. Silvia Earle, marine biologist, explorer, and writer of the foreword to Life Under Glass:  will be speaking, followed by a virtual Q&A featuring biospherians Mark Nelson, Linda Leigh, and Spaceship Earth director Matt Wolfe. 

Tune into Earth Day Live

Earth Day 2020 preview of the new documentary film, Spaceship Earth

The film Spaceship Earth chronicles the true, stranger-than-fiction adventure of eight visionaries who in 1991 spent two years quarantined inside of a self-engineered replica of Earth’s ecosystem called BIOSPHERE 2. As the current pandemic forces us to confront the fact that the narratives that inform our modern-day existence do not serve us, this tale of dreamers reimagining a new world may inspire our own vision of the future.
Spaceship Earth will be released on May 8. Watch the trailer above.
Earth Day 2019 and Protecting Our Biosphere

Earth Day 2019 and Protecting Our Biosphere

Earth Day 2019 & Protecting Our Biosphere

Earth Day began on April 22nd, 1970, as millions of people took to the streets to protest the negative impacts of 150 years of industrial development. Earth Day offers an important opportunity for us to acknowledge the relationship between humanity and the earth.

Earth Day now serves as a day to reflect and cultivate awareness for the responsibility that we have towards our planet and the interconnected web of life that it sustains. It is similar to Mother’s Day in that it involves the cultivation of gratitude for the Source, Mother Nature, which gifted us with this precious life. However, it also encourages us to come together, get creative, and start enacting change.

The national theme of Earth Day this year is ‘Protect Our Species’. Human activity on the planet has irreversibly upset the balance of life and, as a consequence, the planet is facing the largest rate of extinction since the loss of the dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous period 65 million years ago. Unlike the fate of the dinosaurs, the extinction of species today is a result of human activity rather than of a force of Nature.

The Anthropocene Era

In our industrialized, globalized paradigm we have become increasingly disconnected from the natural world at our own peril, with the problems being numerous and multifaceted. Ecologically speaking, we live in turbulent times with the Anthropocene era being one of rapid change. We currently inhabit a world where our oceans are filled with plastic, a world where the problems of deforestation and climate change are becoming a looming reality, a world undergoing a dramatic loss of biodiversity, with new problems arising every day.

From Micro-to-Macro; You Make a Difference

Getting stuck in sentiments of hopelessness and disempowerment, while feeling that our voices and actions do not matter, is all too easy. However, Earth Day offers the opportunity to reflect on our actions and implement changes that enable us to carve out a symbiotic paradigm between our species and the biosphere.

In line with the words of the great primatologist, Jane Goodall, we need to recognize that the choices we make have an impact and that what we do in our personal lives makes a difference on a global level:

“You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference and you have to decide what kind of a difference you want to make.”

To help you along the way, we have included two simple things that you can implement into your life on a daily basis as methods to combat this ecological crisis:

1. Boycott single-use plastics:

Plastic was invented in 1907 and popularized in the 1960s as a high-density polyethylene that was inexpensive to manufacture. Its inventors could have not predicted its catastrophic effect on our Biosphere and the biomes within it. Plastic is a major threat to our environment, with plastic pollution being particularly problematic to aquatic life.

The problem with plastic is that it does not biodegrade, instead breaking down into microplastics which are consumed by other organisms. In recent years, there have been numerous cases reported in which whales have washed up ashore dead due to the ingestion of plastic. Moreover, plastic ends up in the digestive systems of smaller organisms like fish which inevitably end up in our food chain.

Although it can be difficult to boycott plastic altogether, we can take small actions on a daily basis to minimize our consumption. For instance, remembering to bring a reusable bag or reusing one we already have, saying no to straws, sourcing environmentally friendly toothbrushes, owning a reusable water bottle, buying biodegradable bin liners, bringing a food container and buying plastic-free cosmetics all make a huge difference.

A report from the World Economic Forum calculated that if plastic production continues at its current rate that there will be more plastic in the ocean, pound for pound, than fish by the year 2050. Reducing our plastic consumption and making informed, sustainable choices is one of the most effective ways to protect our species.

2. Eating less & better quality meat:

A report by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Administration in 2013 found that livestock and poultry make up roughly 14.5% of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, estimated as 100-year CO2 equivalents. Methane has a global warming potential estimated to be 35 times that of an equivalent mass of carbon dioxide.

According to the World Wildlife Fund, in the Amazon “around 17% of the forest has been lost in the last 50 years, mostly due to forest conversion for cattle ranching.” The Amazonian rainforest is the world’s largest, sometimes referred to as the ‘lungs of the Earth’ because it is thought that more than 20% of the world’s oxygen is produced there. Moreover, the Amazon is one of the world’s most biodiverse regions. It is estimated to be home of 390 billion trees, among them 16,000 different species, and is the tribal home of 1 million indigenous people.

Cattle ranching alongside the production of soya as cattle feed is a major contributor to deforestation, the displacement of indigenous groups, and the destruction of entire ecosystems. Moreover, the production of factory-raised cattle is often associated with toxic fertilizers and pesticides, resulting in an even more damaging carbon footprint.

These crucial forests are not only incredibly biodiverse but also serve to absorb carbon dioxide and have a cooling effect on the earth. In order to protect them, it is important for us to be aware of the source of our meat. Grass-fed cows have a symbiotic relationship with the land that they graze, clearing pastures to encourage new plant growth and helping build productive soil with nutrient-rich compostable manure. Fertile soil helps to keep carbon monoxide at bay, decreasing methane emissions.

Producing one calorie of meat requires nearly twenty times the amount of energy as one plant calorie. Thus, by cutting down on meat consumption and sourcing locally raised, grass-fed meat we can reduce the carbon footprint of the planet drastically.

 

To help you deepen your understanding of our beloved planet, we are offering 25% on all books in the field of ecology & sustainability. Browse titles here.

Save 25% from now until April 30th with the coupon code: Earth2019

 

Get Involved!

Local Events this Earth Day 

Earth Day Celebration in Santa Fe’s Railyard Park, April 27th @ 12:00-4:00 PM

Join the Railyard Park Conservancy in for a free day of learning, games, workshops and family-friendly fun!

Enjoy an illuminating day in the sun at Santa Fe’s award-winning green space, The Railyard Park, to celebrate the Earth and local biodiversity in honor of 2019’s national Earth Day theme: Protect our Species.

We will be joining together to learn about the unique biodiversity of New Mexico and its treasure trove of plants, animals, and geology with a number of interactive activities. Workshops include: making seed balls with the SFPS Sustainability Program, learning how to plant a native garden with the SF Botanical Garden, and learning about local dairy production with Camino de Paz School, just to name a few.

Keep up to date with the Railyard Park’s cool and interesting events through their Facebook @railyardpark or webpage.

Earth Day Cleanups

The Earth Day Network is coordinating volunteer cleanups across the US for Earth Day 2019. They are working with grassroots organizations and community members to clean up green spaces, urban landscapes, and waterways. With cleanup locations in cities across the U.S., the Earth Day 2019 Cleanup will build an army of volunteers and make a tangible impact on waste in our environments.

Find a cleanup near you! Learn more about Earth Day Network events @EarthDayNetwork.

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