Last Saturday was the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. In 1970 twenty million people took to the streets across the US to protest against rivers that were catching fire, cities choking on pollution, species going extinct. 10% of Americans participated and spurred seismic changes -with a few years the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act were signed into law.
The mass movement that forced progress in the ‘70s has continued to build. In 2019 over seven million people around the world walked out of their schools, their jobs, and their everyday lives to call for social, environmental and economic justice. Earth Day 2020 was planned for thousands of gatherings worldwide but the current pandemic changed everything.
For many people Earth Day has become equivalent to only going to church on Easter. Every day going forward must be EARTH DAY. Our very survival depends on making the changes recommended by the “Voice of the Planet”.
Going from my old radio show “Mother Nature Says Clean Up your Room” to our present situation we see that Mother has effectively sent us all to our rooms where we can distance and contemplate what we can do differently.
Maybe it’s not right to think of the planet in anthropomorphic terms but I do believe the Earth is speaking to us now. Coincidence that oil prices just dropped into negative territory? No – we have exploited the “100 Year Fuel Oil Party” long enough, and now must cut back and look for sustainable energy sources. We can be grateful for the infrastructure we’ve built and look for other means to maintain it. Mother says “Oil? – you are done with it!”
The message from Mother Earth is found in the sound of birds now being heard with the lack of cars and planes drowning out their songs. The skies are clearing and water is recovering, with fish seen swimming again in the canals of Venice. Children’s voices, when they can come out to play, are louder and more sweet in the silence. People relax their anxiety with space to express themselves in more contented ways, like creating Victory Gardens and helping each other. Lions are sleeping on the untraveled roads and tarmac of Africa and bears, deer and other creatures are running wild once again in Yosemite. Foxes on the Golden Gate Bridge and bees foraging everywhere undistressed by chemicals.
As difficult as the suffering brought on by Covid 19 is, it also brings an opportunity to hear and see more clearly the path forward to redeem our planet and our relationship with nature. Greenhouse gas emissions have already been cut substantially due to the lockdown and pictures of massive reduction of smog and air pollution over every major city in world are available. We can be made believers, not by rhetoric and pressure to embrace “science”, but by the empirical evidence that Mother Nature is showing and telling us.
The natural world brings us huge benefits – peace of mind, beauty, solace as well as clean water, soil and sustenance as designed. Without so much interference and our assumed human ideas of “improvements” we can continue to live quite well, even with 7+ billion on the planet, if we make the required changes.
David Attenborough, a world renown writer and educator about the natural world was interviewed by Christina Amanpour on the news yesterday. At 93, he’s seen the world change greatly in his lifetime. When he began his adult career 60% of the world was wilderness, now its only 25%. The world population was 2 billion then, 7+ billion now. He was asked if Covid 19 was caused by overpopulation and farming of animals and he responded “ Not necessarily – it is the density that makes plagues repeat – the transmission of disease moves very quickly when there are huge densities of population. Covid 19 is not nature having her revenge”. Yet it is a lesson in how we might avoid future pandemics and live more consciously. Mr. Attenborough had three recommendations: 1) establish no fishing zones to allow oceans and rivers to repair themselves, 2) reduce land farming by half, and 3) phase out fossil fuels. https://www.cnn.com/videos/world/2020/04/22/amanpour-david-attenborough-climate.cnn/video/playlists/amanpour/
Spring is a time of new growth and Mother Earth is asking us to please heed her messages. By staying home, working remotely and paying attention to those closest to us, we are learning that at least half our “busy-ness” is unnecessary and an expensive waste of time, energy and resources. She is asking us to consider cutting back and making it imperative that we “stop and smell the roses”, that we listen with our hearts, not just our heads, hear and act on what is most important.
Whether we have the strength, resolve and intelligence to embrace this new pattern of reduced consumption and more realistic aspirations and goals is yet to be seen. Can we listen and learn from Mother Nature or do we return to “normal” (which is only a short diversion from the history of humans on this planet). Or will we continue to risk even more destruction to ourselves and all Earth beings? Listen closely – it’s our choice.
April 23, 2020