Since 1970, April 22 has been celebrated as Earth Day to promote environmental conservation and protection. Its 50th anniversary was celebrated in 2020. John McConnell proposed it in 1969 as a day to celebrate Earth and peace on March 21 (Spring Equinox). Senator Gaylord Nelson later changed this to April 22 and initiated many teaching activities on that day. Initially, Earth Day remained a primarily US celebration but it is now a global event, celebrated in 193 countries. Many communities celebrate Earth Week to mark the occasion.
This year Earth Day comes at a very strange time. The lock-down initiated in many countries due to the coronavirus-Covid19 pandemic has given us a glimpse of how destroying our natural resources can lead to our own destruction, because the natural barriers between wildlife and us have decreased making it easy for pathogens to jump species.
Earth Day and other events like it, including the Climate Strikes, take place to compel world leaders and industries to take action against climate change and environmental destruction. Coronavirus has forced humanity to do just that. Pollution levels are down, wildlife is being observed in urban areas, and carbon emissions are low. This is perhaps what the activists and supporters of Earth Day dreamed of during its initial days, but even they would not have wanted these results under the current circumstances. Even so, the problems faced by this planet are most certainly not over.
This pandemic only goes to show us how much we need to do if we want the environment to keep improving. And this will depend entirely on how we return to normalcy after we have seen off this virus. Surely, a new economic agenda that encompasses the environment and natural resources, creates sustainable jobs, and provides a secure healthcare system should be a permanent fixture and not something we institute in panic mode to face-off a new danger.
This is a wake-up call and we should make use of this opportunity to ensure a more resilient and sustainable future for humans and other life on this planet.