Earth Day on April 22 will be even more special this year. It is the 50th anniversary of the day millions of people demanded action for our planet. Moreover, we are also fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. An ongoing crisis that has exposed the weaknesses of a broken system that prioritizes profit over people and the planet.
With physical distancing and lockdowns of cities and countries now part of the new normal, Earth Day is going digital. Millions of participants around the world will mobilize on digital platforms. The shared hashtags #EarthDay2020 and #EARTHRISE will allow users to easily track the global conversation. Various organizations, including Fridays For Future and Strike With Us, will launch digital strikes. Meanwhile, the social network We Don’t Have Time is organizing the world’s biggest online climate conference on April 20-25, with 100 speakers from five continents and a live stream on the event site.
Coronavirus and the climate crisis
“We are delighted to be working together with We Don’t Have Time on this conference spotlighting the amazing solutions and inordinate opportunities to fast forward a climate safe future. The Corona Virus has dramatically changed the way all of us will be marking Earth Day 2020. Together, and with hundreds of millions of people around the globe we are making it clear to leaders that people everywhere are behind ambitious action and the answers to the climate crisis are here and ready to be deployed,” Kathleen Rogers, President of Earth Day Network, said in a press statement.
We need to fight the pandemic and the climate crisis simultaneously. Greta Thunberg, the 17-year-old Swedish climate activist who gained international recognition last year, emphasized this.
“If one virus can wipe out the entire economy in a matter of weeks and shut down societies, then that is a proof that our societies are not very resilient. It also shows that once we are in an emergency, we can act and we can change our behaviour quickly.”
“Well, the coronavirus pandemic has blown their cover. It has exposed how government leaders, and the American public, actually can make immediate, dramatic behavioral changes — even when those changes have serious consequences for the economy and our quality of life. It’s just that, until now, they haven’t been willing to.”
Sustaining pro-climate behavior
This year’s Earth Day global mobilization can help sustain the pro-climate behavior that we have learned.
“The climate crisis is unleashing economic and social dislocations that might cause conflict. While the Coronavirus crisis will probably be contained in a few months, the climate crisis will spread over generations. Social ties will be tested, and social bonds will come under enormous strain. This is why social solidarity is essential to ensure that societies can cooperatively handle climate challenge. Strategies and collective memories of the Coronavirus crisis will help.
“To conclude, the virtual Earth Day gatherings should involve collective reflections on how the low-carbon lifestyles forced upon us by Coronavirus could continue.”
Creating a better world
It will be a tragedy if we don’t learn anything from this coronavirus pandemic. Particularly the glaring inequality and greed in modern society that it has exposed.
I remain hopeful that we can create a better world and reject the broken system that we have now. Some developments make me optimistic. For one, the European Union has called for the European Green Deal to be placed at the heart of the post-pandemic recovery plan.
Meanwhile, Amsterdam has pledged to adopt “The Doughnut Model” in its recovery plan.
“At the simplest level, the model makes the controversial case that a growing economy and ever-expanding GDP aren’t necessarily signs of economic health. It suggests that there are two large-scale problems facing humanity: poverty and climate change. The doughnut is an attempt to visualize and enable measurement of the relationship between the two.
“The outermost wall of the doughnut represents issues of climate degradation—things like biodiversity loss, ozone depletion, ocean acidification, chemical pollution, and more. The innermost wall, the part that rings the doughnut hole, represents social issues—things like gender equality, jobs, social equity, income, affordable housing, and education.”
Fighting the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that the whole world can change so dramatically in months rather than years. Now it is up to us to make sure it will change for the better.