This year, Earth marks its 50th anniversary of celebrating Earth Day. The theme for 2020 is climate action which presents itself as the biggest challenge to the future of humanity.
The day came about as a collective response to an environment in crisis namely oil spills, smog, polluted rivers and many more.
On April 22, 1970, 20 million Americans took to the streets and cities to protest against ignorance towards violence and demand fresh ways to advance the planet.
The Earth before and after was and will be different from the one we are witnessing today. Gripped in the clutches of the deadly coronavirus pandemic, cities around the world have been locked down and humanity confined to their homes in effort to slow the spread of the virus.
Experiencing how our environment changes around the globe can help figure out ways to combat future crises.
Here are six things we’ve learnt about our planet since the last Earth Day.
A lot of air pollution is around us, but it can be reduced
Pakistan has troubling air quality index levels with the US Embassy placing it between 201 to 300, signalling health warnings of emergency conditions.
However, since cities went into lockdown, there have been numerous reports of air quality in the country improving as the air clears of pollution.
Air pollution has also been reported to be linked to more deadly outcomes of the coronavirus. According to an article, a researcher in China estimated that the drop in air pollution in China saved 20 times as many lives as were lost to the virus. A lockdown in India revealed mountain vistas and skylines invisible to the naked eye before decades.
Pakistan desperately needs to look after its air quality and we certainly do not need a pandemic reminding us that we need to. It is time we take this matter seriously.
Many more potential viruses similar to COVID-19 are out there
Although the main cause of the novel coronavirus is still uncertain, scientists analyzing its genome connect the origin of the virus to wild bats and pangolins. The illegal trade of trafficked wildife should be banned in order to avoid potential pandemics such as this – and yet humans continue to encroach upon wild areas.
“Every emerging disease that we battle with preexists in wildlife,” says Dennis Carroll, the former director of USAID’s emerging threats division. He advises us not to put pressure on ecosystems as it can have serious consquences on our well-being.
Covid-19 proves that the more connected we are, the more we are likely to risk the rapid spread of the virus as long as we stay cautious of its breeding grounds and work together to stop it.
Diversity of life on Earth shrinks every year
Several species of wildlife go extinct every year such as the Chinese paddlefish and the Cryptic Treehunter bird in the past year. These extinctions happen as a result of habitat loss, overfishing and climate change.
Life is lost at a shocking pace and scale. Changing how we treat the environment can help save those lives.
We discover new species and learn about old ones.
Our understanding of biodiversity is broadened every time we learn about a new kind of species discovered. For instance, a single scientific institution — the California Academy of Sciences — found 71 new plant and animal species on five continents and three oceans last year.
Dangerous weather and climate change brought bushfires to Australia
The explosive bushfires that wreaked havoc across Australia in late 2019 and early 2020 were a result of a dangerous climate owing to rise in temperatures and proved what nature can do if it is not looked after properly.
The blazes went on to burn more than 27 million acres of land, destroying more than 3000 homes and killing 29 people. Images of the catastrophe are petrifying.
This varialibity in climate change are what drove the terrifying conditions for the bushfires in Australia.
Protecting our trees will save the planet
According to research, trees are our superheroes fighting against climate change. They cool air around them, capture it and store carbon, while supporting species.
Protecting trees is therefore important for the environment and hence, for Earth. Research also shows that solutions catering to looking after nature has proven to help us fight climate change.
Ever since the mighty trees of the Amazon rainforest caught fire in 2019, the world became more aware of the need to protect and cherish trees. The more mindful we become of these myriad things, the better our planet’s future will become.