Earth Day, a celebration or a chance for redemption?

Today, April 22, marks 51 years since the world first celebrated Earth Day.  Since April 22, 1970.  Fifty-one years ago we could still convince ourselves that we could get things under control.  We could lessen our use of fossil fuels and reduce carbon emissions, we could plant more trees, we could protect the endangered plants and animals.  We can no longer convince ourselves of that.  We have been appallingly bad stewards of our planet and its natural world; we’ve created a climate crisis of historical proportions in a wink of the eye as far as the history of the planet is concerned.  We have a record number of plants and animals on the endangered and critically endangered lists as we alter their climate and destroy their habitats to establish  irreversible monoculture agriculture (usually in the developing world to feed the desires of the wealthy countries).

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We need to start thinking of Earth Day as a marker for turning things around, within countries, within communities, within corporations, and by individual actions.  We need to use Earth Day to redeem ourselves with Mother Earth.  Celebrating Earth Day by everyone turning out their lights for a designated hour just doesn’t cut it anymore. That’s just patting ourselves on the back that we remembered that it’s Earth Day.

Some reminders of how critical the issues facing our planet are:

  • The wealthy nations are driving the ecological disaster that we’ve unleashed through our disposable society and continuing dependence on fossil fuels. However, it’s the poorest people in the poorest nations who will suffer the most; as dry places become drier and wet places become wetter, and all of those places become hotter, many parts of developing countries will become uninhabitable and a new class of refugees – climate change refugees – will result.  Climate justice is required.ED-FossilFuelEmissions
  • Thanks to climate change and destruction of wildlife habitat, the endangered animals list is a long one, and growing. This list includes many, many of our most iconic large animals, such as: several species of whales, several species of bears, gorillas, chimps, orangutans, other primates, elephants, rhinos, large turtles, some species of penguins, beautiful birds of the rainforests, tigers, and the Amur leopard.  And this is just the starting point.ED-AmurTiger
  • Thanks to climate change, ice losses from arctic sea ice and the massive polar ice sheets have increased by more than 60% in the past 20 years.  This impacts the people and animals that live in these areas, but also causes rises in sea levels that will have devastating effects on parts of the world far from the poles. These rising and warming seas and the resulting changes in sea currents also contribute to the increasingly volatile weather systems we now experience.ED-rctic
  • Overfishing from industrial strength fishing techniques has resulted in too many fish being caught at once so that the breeding population has become too depleted to replenish itself. Overfishing also often goes together with wasteful types of commercial fishing that haul in massive amounts of unwanted fish or other animals, which are then discarded.Emptying fishing nets
  • The waters off the coast of Maine are getting too warm for their lobster. They’re migrating up the coast to Canada!  However, the time might not be so far off when we refer to Newfoundland lobster instead of Maine lobster or Maritime lobster.
  • The world’s wealthiest 1% produce double the combined carbon emissions of the poorest 50%, according to the UN.
  • The wealthiest 5% alone – the so-called “polluter elite” – contributed 37% of emissions growth between 1990 and 2015.

On Earth Day this year, let’s all commit to making one significant change in our daily lives that will have a positive impact on our planet.  Eat less meat.  Stop buying bottled water, or any drink in a plastic bottle. Trade in your SUV for a more fuel efficient car, or even better, an EV.  Commit to fewer flights, a huge polluter (much easier during a pandemic).  Plant a tree.  Donate to a reputable climate charity.  Or follow Fredericton’s Earth Day challenge and grab a garbage bag, put on gloves, and go pick up trash around your neighborhood or along your trails.  Whatever works best for you.  But I encourage you to choose something.  We all have a role to play in trying to curb climate change.  Face it, we’ve screwed up!

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25 Responses to Earth Day, a celebration or a chance for redemption?

  1. Well said, Jane. It hurts my heart to see what’s happening.

  2. bernieLynne says:

    We live in the country and so city trips are all pre planned to use the least amount of gas as possible. While we aren’t going down to one vehicle in the next 3 to 4 months we are switching to a Hybrid or a EV. The truck remains but is used for hauling the trailer or construction supplies only. Decreasing our foot print by those choices for sure. We only ever flew once a year and who knows what that will resume. Doing all the plastic reduction stuff and gardening. My biggest “beef” is that everyone feels they need to give up meat. Buy your meat local; like farm gate local. You are helping a rancher or farmer make a living and they raise their livestock to be sustaining. Check out how much energy it takes to make almond milk before you replace your dairy (which is local). Just my thoughts. We are certainly trying to do our part. Glad for posts like yours that make me review what else I could be doing.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Sounds like you’re doing plenty, Bernie. I echo your desire to promote local meat. Agribusiness from afar, with little taste and no labelling to say what the animals were fed or how they were treated, has put most local farmers out of business here. Very concerning when we could be far more self-sufficient in agriculture. It’s all about money and big business. As for dairy, my husband and I are old school; we could singlehandedly keep local dairy in business!

      • bernieLynne says:

        My brother is a rancher as is his best friend. I have not had store bought beef ever. It’s sad to think that there are very few farmer’s down your way raising beef. I do know there are some as my brother went to a Saler Association meeting in the Maritimes. It’s worth searching it out. Farmer’s markets are a good place to start. People here are really turning into local food in a much bigger way than ever before. My daughter and son in law are raising pigs, chickens and turkey and it’s pretty easy to sell them.

        • Jane Fritz says:

          The reason there are very few is because their smaller farms were priced out of the market by the far larger operations out west that captured the supply contracts for all the major supermarket chains. It’s been a few decades now since our farmers lost our regional slaughterhouse capacity as the farmers gave up being commercial outside of farmers markets. So a region that could sustain much of the food needs for its population instead relies on suppliers from far away thanks to industrial-scale agriculture and bottom-line-only major supermarket chain. Some day this will come back to haunt us in many locations.

        • bernieLynne says:

          Isn’t that just the ridiculous part. If we all engaged in a 200 mile diet just think what an impact that would have. There is a local Saskatoon cook book author who did that for a year. Her husband missed bananas but overall it was a great success. She chose 200 miles because Sask is a pretty big place but she sourced all sorts of stuff locally. I really enjoyed following her blog.

        • Jane Fritz says:

          I really like the idea of the 100 or 200 mile diet. I think I may try an abbreviated version that exempts fruit. Apples only go so far as your only fruit!

  3. We can voice our displeasure with how little our politicians are doing in regard to protecting this planet we all call home. And we can take personal responsibility by doing our own little bit to reduce the imprint we are making. You’ve nailed it here, Jane. Bravo!!!!

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Carol, what an excellent addition to contact our politicians. As it is, we live in the only riding in the entire country that is currently served by both a Green Party MP and a Green Party MLA. They’re both terrific. Unfortunately, their voices aren’t always heard. But there are other politicians to contact! Thanks.

  4. Hoorah for this, Jane. I can live with Newfoundland lobster if it weren’t for the obvious calamity that we’re slowly killing species rather than merely displacing them. Grateful that in this country we’ve at least changed the conversation at the highest levels. – Marty

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Yes, the change in position at the top in the US has the potential to be a game-changer for not only getting world climate change action back on track, but also for starting to see more concrete action being taken (including using different processes for making or replacing concrete). We will live in hope again.

  5. AMWatson207 says:

    A most important post. The Earth itself is saying ‘I can’t breathe.’

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Oh, Anne-Marie, you have captured the egregiousness of our actions against nature so powerfully with that one meaningful phrase. Meaningful to the entire world, the reason for which there now has been a modicum of justice. May our Earth experience similar hard-fought justice.

  6. somekindof50 says:

    Fantastic post Jane! Let’s all take some responsibility!

  7. Amen, amen! I was much struck by “We have been appallingly bad stewards of our planet and its natural world; we’ve created a climate crisis of historical proportions in a wink of the eye as far as the history of the planet is concerned.” For many years, my husband and I have made a great effort to reduce our carbon footprint. We don’t eat meat and only occasionally eat fish and dairy. We have drastically reduced how much we drive. Seldom do we drive anywhere outside our town solely for pleasure. We don’t fly. Ever. I hang out laundry as soon as spring allows. More to do, but we feel as though we have made a start.

  8. Thanks Jane; we like to think of ourselves as good stewards of our environment but only in the past 6 months have we gone down to one car. It will be a challenge during the summer but we are determined to make it work. Yup, eating less meat, recycling, drying clothes on the line, still flying to see kids….whenever that might happen again but only flying abroad every second year…again…we find it hard to imagine when… We are members of the Green Party, make monthly donations to Bullfrog Power and have managed to sire 4 children, and 5 grandkids who are much better at all this than us. We recognize Greta speaks for our planet and we are paying attention

  9. Thanks for the suggested changes. I’m going with less meat.

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