Today, despite countrywide stay at home orders, is the 50th anniversary of the observance of Earth Day. It’s a holiday usually celebrated outdoors, some choosing to garden and plant trees while city-dwellers usually spend time in public parks. 

The irony of our strange new inability to go outside is that in the absence of people, nature is seemingly beginning to thrive. Improvements in air and water quality have been recorded as coronavirus lockdowns have shut down factories and kept people off roads. 

Wildlife has even begun to venture out into the city streets, with wolves, deer, sheep and even kangaroos being spotted on city streets and sidewalks around the globe. Fish have made a rare appearance in the usually-packed Venice canals, no longer having to contest with motor boats and gondolas, while residents of some Indian cities have reported seeing the Himalayas for the first time in decades.

Yes, the way we celebrate Earth Day today will look markedly different from years past, but climate activists like Greta Thunberg, who became widely known through her Fridays for Future campaign, are intent on making it known that action to tackle the coronavirus pandemic does not mean that the climate crisis has gone away by any means.

Thunberg participated in a livestreamed conversation early Wednesday morning with climate scientist Johan Rockström to discuss courage, solidarity and opportunities in times of crisis for Earth Day.

“In a crisis, you put your differences aside and you act,” Thunberg started. “You go out into the unknown and take decisions that may not make much sense at the moment, for the long run may be necessary for our common well-being. And as in any crisis — it’s always important, essential that [we] listen to the science and the experts, but during this crisis it’s even more important.”


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“Today is Earth Day and that reminds us that climate and the environmental emergency is still ongoing and we need to tackle the corona pandemic at the same time as we tackle climate and environmental emergency,” she said.

“Within the Fridays for Future movement, there’s still this sort of big sense of resistance, and people are thinking, 'We will get out of this. And when we do, we will continue, and we will do everything we can that is possible in that situation to continue to push even harder,'” says Thunberg. “I feel like many people have not lost their sense of hope. We have just changed the way we do things. We are maybe just saving it for later at the moment.”

Act as if our house is on fire

Greta Thunberg's Fridays For Future movement also posted a “fiery” public service announcement in honor of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. It echoed her words at last year's Davos World Economic Forum: "I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is."

On the Fridays for Future website, Thunberg urges visitors to listen to the science and local rules and guidelines to help flatten the curve of the coronavirus, and to “prioritise health and safety.”

She gives a list of safe ways to take part in climate activism if striking in public with others may put your health at risk, such as emailing politicians, posting on social media, creating a strike sign to put in your window and preparing for future activities — thinking about what may be effective approaches. “Be creative and have fun,” the website says.


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Published on Apr 22, 2020