A changing climate is deadlier than COVID-19
April 21, 2021
Once again the Earth has made a full circle around the sun. Tomorrow, April 22, is Earth Day, the 51st anniversary of people celebrating, first, the amazing wonder of what is truly Spaceship Earth, a frail vehicle carrying over seven billion people into the future.
Second, folks gather to honor their collective power and commitment, historically, to clean up and reduce the pollution fouling our beloved Mother Earth. In the last 25 years the emphasis has increasingly shifted to reversing climate change, a task that, to date, the people of every country, and their governments, have failed to adequately address.
Earth Day 2020, the 50-year anniversary, was set to be a worldwide celebration of the Earth and a demand for immediate, significant actions to move governments past rhetoric and gestures that make them feel good but are totally inadequate to the scope of the disaster eventually facing all of us.
There were to be massive rallies, demonstrations and protests on city streets and in town squares around the world. All were canceled, shut down by the worldwide coronavirus pandemic. All of a sudden, COVID-19 became the greatest threat to our health and economic wellbeing in our lifetimes.
Never in modern world history have economies ground to a halt as they did at last winter’s end.
People have shouldered a year of hardship. The pandemic came all at once with the potential to affect anyone and everybody. The threat was ominous, immediate and very real. Yet the coronavirus was not and is not an existential threat. It will not end life as we know it. Even if COVID-19 is a persistent problem for years, society is over the hump of managing infections and reducing deaths.
Climate change will, over time, ravage the planet. Pick your pestilence: flood, fire, freezing, draught, hurricanes, tornadoes. These will not all happen at once or in one year but climate caused natural disasters are current and will be in the news this year.
As with combatting the coronavirus, personal actions taken in concert with policies, programs and funding will move society toward environmental health. There will not be a vaccine to inoculate us. No number of shots in the arm will save us. There will not be a onetime fix and there will not be one or two great research breakthroughs. Neither science nor technology alone will save us.
Climate change is a public health crisis. It will take us all, collectively, working together to reduce our energy consumption, embrace sustainable local living practices and pull together day in and day out year in and year out today, tomorrow and in the years and decades to come.
Our environmental personal hygiene actions will be harder than wearing a mask. Giving up gasoline powered cars will require more than riding bikes, working from home or using mass transit. The new normal that was hoped for a year ago will have to actually be created by us. We will have to live it daily for it to become a reality.
We might be wearing masks for years to come, maybe in public the rest of our lives. There are corresponding everyday precautions and protections we likewise must take as public health measures to slow climate change.
As teenagers were showing in the year before the pandemic drove us all from public spaces, loudly insisting on a future that they can live in is not a casual choice but the responsible necessity.