Does Earth Day Still Matter During Coronavirus? More Than Ever.

Earth Day is so much more than a token holiday. Perhaps this year it is even more important than ever. Here are my reflections on what Earth Day really means this year.

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Climate and Energy

By Angie Aker

This wasn’t how any of us imagined Earth Day going this year. Instead of marching to celebrate 50 years of this beacon holiday, many of us are in our homes, laying low to avoid a virus that’s been changing the way of life for the entire world. Many more of us are out on the front lines every day, delivering essential services, taking a risk no one would have imagined just six months ago. A frightening amount of us are fighting for our lives or our loved ones’ lives in a dire situation that only a pandemic and a broken healthcare system can create. And far too many are struggling to hold onto their homes, their cars, their water and power, and put food on the table — all because a pandemic brought the world to a screeching halt. 

So how do we honor Earth Day when we know all of these terrible things are happening? Why? Don’t we have bigger fish to fry right now?

Earth Day Is A Chance Each Year For An Internal Revolution

Any holiday is, among other things, a storytelling tool. It’s a chance to keep a shared dream alive, and grow it year after year until enough people join in to make it a reality. For some, their favorite holidays represent religious aspirations. For some, social justice. In the case of Earth Day, it’s an expression of a dream that has been held by indigenous peoples long before anyone else — that humanity could be good stewards of the planet’s resources and take care of next generations through that stewardship. 

But a tool is only as good as the hands of those that are using it. If this holiday is used only as an annual dress up day and then we go back to our systems that exploit our resources the rest of the year without fighting them, how have we gotten closer to that dream?

For many of us, Earth Day is so much more than that. It’s a time to reflect on our place in this planet, individually and as a species. It’s a chance for us to set our intentions and shore up our will to fight the corruption that pollutes our planet the other 364 days of the year. And this year more than ever — in the face of coronavirus — it’s about learning from our mistakes in the past and vowing to be smarter from this day forward.

Earth Day means finding ways to deepen our moral courage to stand up against: 

  • Oil companies fracking our beautiful lands and running dangerous pipelines all throughout our communities, endangering public health
  • Industries that use our lawmakers to shut down sustainable technology because they think their profits are more important than our futures
  • Corporations that pollute our lakes and rivers and then profit by selling us clean water — only a commodity because they poisoned it in the first place
  • Factory farms that crowd animals together in inhumane conditions, lighting the match for zoonotic disease to break out, polluting our land, air and water, and stomping out the family farms that could feed us in troubled times
  • Any corporation or politician getting in the way of efforts to reduce humanity’s carbon emissions by 2030 — getting in the way of saving ourselves. 

It’s good to do things to reduce our own individual carbon footprints, like ditching plastic and being mindful of our consumption — we should all keep doing that. But we need to go further to fight the corporations endangering us and we can. We have strategies at Food & Water Watch that are winning and we are growing the people power to fuel them.

Earth Day Is A Chance Every Year To Get Serious About Saving Ourselves

Whether it takes the form of direct action or keeping the love of our planet alive in our kids, there are many ways to make Earth Day meaningful. Here are some of the ways Food & Water Watch staff are holding this day dear. 

“On the first Earth Day, back in 1970, I celebrated with my mother in New York City’s Central Park, and she tells me that I danced and hippies painted my face. As an adult, I’m counting on the Earth to sustain my son Zach and a growing number of young cousins in my family. This Earth Day, I’m calling on my elected officials, most notably Governor Andrew Cuomo and Senator Chuck Schumer, to be bold climate leaders and move New York and the nation off fossil fuels to renewable energy.”

— Eric Weltman, New York Organizer

“I have two middle schoolers. They’re doing two things to celebrate Earth Day this year. We’re doing a neighborhood walkthrough trash pick-up – lots of masks and gloves have turned into litter. They’re also each writing their own email to our Member of Congress asking that we do more to shut down fossil fuels.”

— Michael Doerrer, Managing Director of Communications

Let’s Make A Pledge This Earth Day To Take It Even More Seriously

This year, let’s add earnest reflection to the list of activities we do today. We can pledge to double down on our efforts as individuals and as a society, and put real faith in each other. If enough of us are working at the dream of a sustainable future, and finding ways to make it more of a priority in our lives, we can make miracles happen

In a time rife with climate change effects and a pandemic, that’s a ray of hope and possibility that we all need to nurture. 

Will you chip in and power this year-round work?