50 years ago, on the 22nd of April the first Earth Day took place. At the time a massive oil spill had just occurred off the coast of California, and the environmental fallout had been catastrophic. In 2020, Earth Day once again took place on the 22nd of April, and happened to coincide with a massive global health crisis. With everyone sheltering in place, doing yoga online, playing pokies or learning a new language, is this the first time in 50 years anyone has taken Earth Day seriously?
Of course, it isn’t just the difficult to ignore current health crisis that has been of major concern. Other, longer running issues have also been on the forefront of global alarm, with environmental impact being chief among them. Even before the current crisis plans had been to table major discussions about environmental impact, with the goal being to discuss how best to approach the challenges.
It all seems to have come together in one moment, with nature waving a red flag so big that no one on the planet can ignore it. Is this the moment that the world finally takes environmental challenges seriously?
A Year Of Hope
COP15 (Conference of Parties) and COP26 were set to take place this year and would have been a serious step in the right direction. The aim of the conferences would have been to build on environmental agreements previously reached in 2015, a year which has been hailed as one of the most significant for environmental reform.
This year, as is to be expected, the topics discussed would have focused entirely on the biggest environmental challenges facing humanity, including climate change, loss of biodiversity, the collapse of ecosystems, and other serious biological impact.
However, the current health crisis forced both of these summits to be postponed and pushed into 2021. The irony of this occurrence should not be lost on anyone. It is, however, completely understandable why the delays occurred, and it was certainly the right move to make. But the postponement of the events should certainly not be seen as a defeat, but rather as a cue that faster, more decisive action needs to be taken.
Hope Turns To Despair
Given the scheduling of COP15 and COP26, many were seeing 2020 as a year of hope. Expectations were that 2020 could be hailed as a super year for climate reformation and mark the point where true change began. But with the world as a whole largely being forced to stay indoors, that hope is quickly turning to despair.
But on the other hand, with Earth Day having come and gone, it may be the perfect storm of events to light a global fire of passion that has long been missing. While locked indoors, it may be the first time in history that the world as a whole is appreciating what being shut away from nature is really like. Or to be more precise; what having to stay indoors for fear of what lies outdoors actually feels like.
Similar to how it might be, for example, if the environment ever became so unliveable that staying indoors was the only remaining option.
We Have Met The Enemy
A poster for Earth Day 2020 reads ‘We have met the enemy, and he is us.’
No truer words were ever spoken when taking the planet into account, and truly appreciating the relationship that humanity has with the environment. Though, the words need not be taken as a curse. Rather, they can be seen as a blessing, given the deeper implications.
Nature has waved a flag and demanded attention. Earth Day attempts to wave a similar red flag and has been doing so for 50 years. Only this time, the flag, backed by nature itself, cannot be ignored. At least not for the moment.
There is the possibility that, once the current health crisis has become a memory, as it soon will, the world will return to its old ways. But then again, if this momentum carries through to the rescheduled COP15 and COP26, that enemy may be defeated after all.
Or a better way to see it is that perhaps a truce can be reached.