50 years ago today, April 22, the U.S. celebrated the first Earth Day. The enormous response of some 20 million citizens led to unprecedented change. Congress enacted the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act. Republican President Richard Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency. Earth Day became a pledge to craft a resilient natural world.
Today, the clean air and water acts have been decimated in favor of high-profile industries. The EPA has become known as the Environmental Destruction Agency with scientists shuffled to the side and decisions made on political grounds.
Today, the world faces the Covid-19 pandemic that is racing across the globe without heed to nation or demographics. The warnings were there but… Climate change has prompted Arctic sea ice to melt at speeds unimagined and has disappeared in areas larger than Norway, Sweden and Denmark combined. Drought and floods, endangered rivers and useless farmland spread across the planet. The warnings are there but…
But today, I believe enough of us across the globe are speaking out, listening, heeding science, and demanding the same kind of action that occurred 50 years ago. I have hope on both fronts as I see scientists and medical researchers working together across national boundaries to understand the corona virus and develop a vaccine. I see a 17 year-old activist, Greta Thunberg, address the UN and the World Economic Forum, holding “grown-ups” feet to the fire. While dismissed by politicians, a stronger and more vocal generation rises in support.
Here’s another reason I have hope. We’re seeing the results of what happens when we forego driving everywhere and use this “shelter-in-place” time to watch the world around us. My New York friends marvel at how blue the sky is. National parks are seeing the return of wildlife. Western bluebirds are flocking to my feeder and neighbors are singing to each other from front yards. We are alone—together.
I’ve participated in a number of salutes and gratitude gatherings for first responders and medical staff. I see more outreach to the lonely, the hungry, and the un-sheltered as never before. Could it be that FINALLY we understand that this earth is OUR home and we ARE one family? Sure there are plenty of deniers and those who would seek only their own financial gain and political leverage. But I believe that enough of us—if we pay attention and act—can move from the crises of NOW into a better world tomorrow. Now that’s resiliency!