Since the first Earth Day in 1970, we've come a long way - but mostly in the wrong direction
Where things stand
● Climate change is bearing down hard, and within a decade could lead to “waves” of die-offs, first in the oceans, then in tropical forests, if we don’t reign it in.
● Ice is melting rapidly in the polar regions, leading to sea level rise and ecosystem changes (In 2019, the Arctic had the 2nd lowest ice cover on record). Plastics? 19 billion pounds ends up in the world’s oceans every year, killing 100 million marine mammals and a million seabirds.
● The world continues to lose some 20,000 square miles of forest per year – or a football field per second. Causes by rank: agribusiness (palm oil, soybeans, cattle production, etc.), lumber, fires, local agriculture. Where forests are being replanted, as in the USA, it’s typically as a monoculture crop for harvest = a faux forest.
● Human behavior is not adapting to these realities – e.g. in the US, we drove a record 3.3 trillion miles in 2019. (On average, every mile driven emits a pound of CO2 – and every day, 1 million creatures are killed by collisions with vehicles in the USA. Meanwhile, our government is relaxing fuel efficiency standards.)
Things we need to do
Act on our own:
- Reducing meat consumption and car driving immediately lower one’s carbon footprint.
- Minimizing lawn size opens spaces for insects and reduces emissions.
- Treat plastic like CV-19: practice active distancing (see review of How to Give Up Plastic on our Reading List)
- Trace backwards: does the product contain palm oil (it has many aliases)? does the US trade embargo foster deforestation in Brazil? how much CO2 did it take to bring those strawberries to the produce section – and what are the other eco-factors of food production?
- Support native communities, who are often on the front lines of protecting natural areas. NCP is collaborating with indigenous groups in the Ecuadorian Amazon (Kichwa, Siona, Cofan, Secopai, and Shuar), with the Dine in New Mexico, and with our long-time friends in the Gwich'in community of Arctic Village, Alaska. These groups were treating the Earth respectfully long before 1970.
- Experience nature – and especially where it is being impacted by human activity – at a stream or other natural area nearby or on an NCP Learning Tour, then let others know what was seen/learned/felt. Direct experience creates concern/passion in us and is hard for others to dispute/dismiss
- CV-19 has led to huge reductions in CO2 emissions in the US and around the world – how can we encourage society to “normalize” these behaviors: e.g. working from home, less car and air travel, less consumption in general.
- Educate our communities – school, congregation, club, local legislators – about what we are doing to our planet, and what we can do better. First Step: when possible, foster relationships as a prelude to promoting change. “Building relationships is a key to what we are doing in educating communities about climate change,” NCP partner Taona Makunje in Malawi says about the work of her organization to engage rural villages with climate mitigation strategies. Here’s the album from our May 2019 Africa Learning Tour
- Invite NCP staff to your group – virtually or “really” when this is allowed. We’re cheap, somewhat knowledgeable and occasionally funny.