Thursday, April 22, 2021

Earth Day 2021

Today is Earth Day.  The first celebrations took place in two thousand colleges and universities, primary and secondary schools, and hundreds of communities across the United States.  It now is observed in 192 countries, and coordinated by the nonprofit Earth Day Network, chaired by the first Earth Day 1970 organizer Denis Hayes.  According to Hays, Earth Day is now "the largest secular holiday in the world, celebrated by more than a billion people every year."

Hays created Earth Day in response to the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill, which spewed more than three million gallons of oil, resulting in an 800 square-mile oil slick he viewed by plane.  The day is to demonstrate our commitment to environmental protection.  Our commitment to be good stewards of the Earth.

Through the pandemic, we have seen the impact that we can make in that regard.  How our actions (or in this case inaction) can impact the world around us.  And improve things for the better.

While we were in quarantine, we saw truly remarkable reports of environmental improvement around the world.  Our Earth is getting wilder - and cleaner.  Compared to the previous five years, March 2020 air pollution was down 46% in Paris, 35% in Bengaluru, India, 38% in Sydney, 29% in Los Angeles, 26% in Rio de Janeiro and 9% in Durban, South Africa, NASA measurements show.  Smog stopped choking New Delhi, one of the most polluted cities in the world, and Indians had views of the skyline that they have not seen before.  Nitrogen dioxide pollution in the US northeast was down 30%.

The Earth improved because we were not out in it.  Think about that for a while.

I know people who have thought that God sent COVID-19 to slow us down, to get our attention, to put families back together.  What if he sent it to heal His creation?  To fix the damage we have done as poor stewards of His creation?

Our challenge this year, as we can hopefully start seeing the end of this pandemic, is whether we can continue to improve things for the better, or whether, in our haste to return things back to "normal" go back to our past of taking the earth for granted.  Can we bring the positive aspects of going back to normal - human interaction, social gatherings, smiles and hugs - while also keeping the aspects that have had such a positive impact on the environment around us?

On this Earth Day, we should remember that we can make a difference.  We're seeing it all around us in this time.  What kind of difference we make when this is over is up to us.

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