Happy 50th B(Earth)day!

As we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, it is a great occasion to reflect on where we stand in the fight against climate change. In doing so, the comparison of the climate crisis with the current COVID-19 pandemic and their connections appear inevitable.
Published in Social Sciences
Happy 50th B(Earth)day!

Note: Ms. Danielė Makulavičiūtė contributed equally to this post.

In the past few weeks, we have witnessed a profound change in people’s behavior and routine in front of the COVID-19 outbreak. The considerable global threat has brought people together in an attempt to flatten the curve and tackle the problem most quickly and efficiently possible. Unfortunately, the same does not hold true for climate action, although issues related to climate change and impact on humankind can be dated way back. Climate action also appears in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set in 2015 by the United Nations General Assembly and this term refers to stepped-up efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-induced impacts.

Interestingly, the COVID-19 pandemic is partly having an impact on the climate. Indeed, we have seen the return of Nature to populated areas and the decrease of some pollutants in the air as a result of limited mobility. However, these improvements seem short-term and the question that many have is whether the COVID-19-related measurements will have repercussions in the long-term. According to our personal view, the climate crisis will not be solved so easily and the return to our standard daily routine over time will kill all the temporary signs of progress made so far. While COVID-19 is not the solution to the climate crisis, we can learn a very important lesson from it, that is people can adapt and change if they want/ have to, even in a drastic way. People consider themselves directly affected by the Coronavirus since it can target relatives, friends, and ultimately themselves. Contrarily, actions for the climate are more reluctantly taken, as if our daily life, future, and health would not be much dependent on it. We don’t perceive climate change as our problem, or at least as an imminent problem. 

We must rethink the climate crisis and act as we are doing for the COVID-19 pandemic. Earth is not only a place where we temporarily live, but it is also part of us as we are of it. Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano was asked during the UN Climate Change Summit 2019 what was the most fragile thing seen from space as a direct witness of some of the most terrible effects of climate change. Unexpectedly, he replied that us, human beings, are the most fragile thing on Earth and added:

Life will continue well beyond the damage we are doing, the Universe is predisposed for life. Life is perfectly aligned with the principles of physics, therefore it will continue to exist, however, we don't know if humankind will make it. [..] If we want to preserve man, it is time to act. It is a problem that concerns us very, very closely.

We must act now not only to preserve our nature and our Earth but also to preserve ourselves.

Sun Over Earth (NASA, International Space Station, 07/21/03). This view of Earth’s horizon as the sunsets over the Pacific Ocean was taken by an Expedition 7 crew member on board the International Space Station (ISS). Anvil tops of thunderclouds are also visible. Image credits: NASA.

During the quarantine, we have learned, for instance, that video conferencing is a good alternative to vis-à-vis meeting and unnecessary travels and that limited mobility produces a more breathable air. While individual efforts and actions are the very first step to contribute to climate action, it is crucial that these attempts would be supported and enhanced by organizations and governments, so that the entire society could effectively contribute to climate action on a big scale. On one side, we need climate change education and awareness, and in this context, ecology classes would sharpen each person’s perception in everyday life choices. On the other, we must upgrade our societies to be energy efficient and to meet 100% of power demands through renewable sources. Technologies in energy storage and conversion have to be developed to achieve this goal. 

Overall, it may be said that action from different spheres of society is required. Each individual can take the first step and rethink the priority level of Nature in our lives, while substantial resources need to be invested to significantly act on a large-scale. Local and global politics is a reflection of society and has a crucial role in tackling climate change as each of us. We are all responsible for it and we must intervene also for our health and well-being.

Note: Ms. Danielė Makulavičiūtė contributed equally to this post.

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Humanities and Social Sciences > Society