Blue Marble: The Earth!
View of the Earth as seen by the Apollo 17 crew -- astronaut Eugene A. Cernan, commander; astronaut Ronald E. Evans, command module pilot; and scientist-astronaut Harrison H. Schmitt, lunar module pilot -- traveling toward the moon. This translunar coast photograph extends from the Mediterranean Sea area to the Antarctica South polar ice cap. This is the first time the Apollo trajectory made it possible to photograph the South polar ice cap. Note the heavy cloud cover in the Southern Hemisphere. Almost the entire coastline of Africa is clearly visible. The Arabian Peninsula can be seen at the Northeastern edge of Africa. The large island off the coast of Africa is the Malagasy Republic. The Asian mainland is on the horizon toward the Northeast. (Photo: NASA)

Earth Day 2020 comes at a time when our own hubris regard­ing our envi­ron­ment has met its match. Some experts con­sid­er our steady destruc­tion of bio­di­verse habi­tat result­ing in a “jump” of the SARS-CoV­‑2 virus to humans as replace­ment hosts for ani­mals under threat by our destruc­tive habits and behaviors.

But do our past sins mean we’re doomed? No. Far from it.

Pre­sump­tive Demo­c­ra­t­ic nom­i­nee Joe Biden had a cli­mate jus­tice call today with Vice Pres­i­dent and Cli­mate Real­i­ty founder Al Gore, and two points stood out.

One is the dra­mat­ic change in the cost and ori­en­ta­tion of our ener­gy use from fos­sil fuels to wind and solar energy.

Al Gore made the point that five years ago, only 1% of ener­gy projects using fos­sil fuels could be replaced cost effec­tive­ly with wind and solar energy.

As of now, that’s risen to two thirds of all such projects. By 2025, all such projects should be more cost effec­tive using wind and solar rather than fos­sil fuels — in 2019, 72% of all new ener­gy projects were based on wind and solar energy.

The oth­er salient point was when Joe Biden, bor­row­ing a quote from Mar­tin Luther King, said that “We should say, as a nation, ‘I refuse to post­pone’” when it comes to pro­tect­ing our envi­ron­ment and reduc­ing pollution.

Blue Marble: The Earth!
View of the Earth as seen by the Apol­lo 17 crew — astro­naut Eugene A. Cer­nan, com­man­der; astro­naut Ronald E. Evans, com­mand mod­ule pilot; and sci­en­tist-astro­naut Har­ri­son H. Schmitt, lunar mod­ule pilot — trav­el­ing toward the moon. This translu­nar coast pho­to­graph extends from the Mediter­ranean Sea area to the Antarc­ti­ca South polar ice cap. This is the first time the Apol­lo tra­jec­to­ry made it pos­si­ble to pho­to­graph the South polar ice cap. Note the heavy cloud cov­er in the South­ern Hemi­sphere. Almost the entire coast­line of Africa is clear­ly vis­i­ble. The Ara­bi­an Penin­su­la can be seen at the North­east­ern edge of Africa. The large island off the coast of Africa is the Mala­gasy Repub­lic. The Asian main­land is on the hori­zon toward the North­east. (Pho­to: NASA)

And while cut­ting emis­sions is impor­tant, seek­ing greater ener­gy effi­cien­cy through con­ser­va­tion is rel­a­tive­ly sim­ple and far more effec­tive over the long run. Amory Lovins, who wrote the clas­sic Soft Ener­gy Paths: Towards a Durable Peace in 1977 and has been pro­mot­ing this cause suc­cess­ful­ly ever since, dis­cuss­es where things are and where they can go next in this Earth Day 2020 inter­view.

What can you and I do in this time of self-isolation?

Curbed has a check­list. Some of their ideas aren’t new. A few might sur­prise you and make you think about how to make it part of your dai­ly lives.

And once you’ve done what you your­self can, what can we do, as a soci­ety, to make a liv­able plan­et, one that’s abun­dant for all, a real­i­ty again?

This For­eign Pol­i­cy arti­cle reviews what hap­pened over fifty years ago to bring Earth Day into being in the first place, with pos­si­ble clues as to what might make it more a uni­ver­sal, and less a polit­i­cal issue.

More Earth Day reads

MODIS Map of the Earth
This image is based large­ly on obser­va­tions from the Mod­er­ate Res­o­lu­tion Imag­ing Spec­tro­ra­diome­ter (MODIS) — a sen­sor aboard the Ter­ra satel­lite — on July 11, 2005. Small gaps in MODIS’ cov­er­age between over­pass­es, as well as Antarc­ti­ca (which is in polar dark­ness in July), have been filled in using GOES weath­er satel­lites and the lat­est ver­sion of the NASA Blue Mar­ble. Hur­ri­cane Den­nis can be seen mov­ing inland over the Gulf Coast. (Pho­to: NASA)

Watch The Story of Stuff

It’s also a good day to watch one of our favorite doc­u­men­tary shorts, The Sto­ry of Stuff, with the always fab­u­lous Annie Leonard.

Adjacent posts

One reply on “Earth Day turns fifty as the world community grapples with the novel coronavirus pandemic”

  1. Every day needs to be Earth Day or there won’t be a hab­it­able plan­et left soon. 

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