What will this Earth Day be remembered for? A turning point

Letter to the editor

Letter to the editor submitted by Sue Cairns, Cranbrook, B.C.

Earth Day is on April 22 and this year marks its 50th anniversary. Earth Day helped bring in: the Environmental Protection Act (US EPA) in the 1970s; the 3Rs (Reduce Reuse Recycle) in the 1990s; and awareness of climate change in the early 2000s. It is now widely recognized as the largest secular observance on the planet.

But on April 22, 2020, we won’t gather – at least at this time, not physically. Let’s pause to consider then: What will this Earth Day be remembered for? Where are we at? When has a disruption like this ever happened before? And how did it change what society did next?

This health emergency has helped us understand the difference between needs and wants. If we lack access to health and livelihoods, we live with fear. But if we have them, we have the ability to not just survive, but to thrive. As we learn through this outbreak, and prepare for a post-COVID-19 future, our collective need for health and livelihood bring us together. This historic moment of common understanding and consciously building forward will be the marker of Earth Day 2020.

This virus has run like a tidal wave through the economy and every part of society. It has shown us our vulnerability and also our grace. Extremely hard work and cooperation are underway at every level – globally, nationally, regionally and personally. People are amazing and resourceful in times of need. We know our world has changed and that it is time to update. Societal health depends on a livable climate, and our economy depends on both.

Numerous well-recognized think-tanks have carried out analyses that consider socio-economic and environmental interdependencies as they relate to long term recovery, as well as immediate needs. This report by Pembina Institute: Green Stimulus: Principles and recommendations for a 2020 economic stimulus package (March 30, 2020) offers suggestions related to:

  • Employment that is resilient to future economic shocks as the world seeks to limit warming to 1.5c.
  • Industries and businesses that produce low-carbon goods and services to expand Canada’s low-carbon economy and secure our domestic supply chain.
  • Decisions for stimulus and relief through a lens of Canada’s climate commitments.
  • Economic stimulus that supports job maintenance and creation and climate action in building, electricity, transportation, etc.
  • Existing channels to quickly disburse funds across Canada’s economy (including the Low Carbon Economy Fund, provincial energy efficiency agencies, Canada Infrastructure Bank, and others).

A post-COVID-19 sustainable future is our next iteration. Health depends on a livable climate.

Together we are innovative and resourceful. We are social and compassionate by nature. And we already embrace multidisciplinary technical collaboration.

On this golden anniversary of Earth Day, our focus on health and prosperity is a gold nugget of hope for the future. One that will be remembered in the passage of time as a turning point.

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