April 22, 2020 marks the 50th edition of Earth Day. It was in the 1970s when, for the first time, there was a general concern about global environmental crises: oil spills, air pollution and waste; it sounds crazy, but some rivers were so contaminated that they actually caught on fire. As a result, on April 22, 1970, close to 20 million Americans (representing 10% of the U.S. population at the time) took to the streets, school campuses and other public places in over one hundred cities, to protest environmental ignorance and demand better policies for our planet.
Climate change is now the biggest challenge to the future of humanity and the conditions that make our world habitable, hence the decision to choose CLIMATE ACTION as the theme for the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. Earth Day 2020 should be another historic moment just like 50 years ago, when, as stated in the movement’s website, “citizens of the world rise up in a united call for the creativity, innovation, ambition, and bravery that we need to meet our climate crisis and seize the enormous opportunities of a zero-carbon future.”
In a National Geographic article entitled “Pollution made COVID-19 worse. Now, lockdowns are clearing the air” the author, Beth Gardiner, mentions a recent study at Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health led by biostatistics professor Francesca Dominici. The study analyzed data on PM2.5 levels in the air and COVID-19 deaths from about 3,000 counties in the United States. Those counties averaging the highest concentrations of PM2.5 in the air had a COVID-19 death rate up to 15 percent higher than counties with low PM2.5 concentrations.
PM2.5 refers to atmospheric particulate matter (PM) that have a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometers (microns), which is about 3% the diameter of a human hair. PM2.5 and other fine particles may come from various sources, including factories; engine exhausts; home wood, forest fires, and agricultural fires; and natural phenomena, such as volcanic eruptions and dust storms. What makes particles 2.5 microns in diameter, or finer, particularly harmful for humans and animals, is that they tend to stay longer in the air than heavier particles, increasing the chances of being inhaled; more importantly, because of their fine size, they are able to bypass the nose and throat and reach the lungs, and even enter the circulatory system. Many studies have found a close correlation of exposure to fine particles and premature death from heart and lung disease; they are also known to trigger heart attacks, and worsen asthma, bronchitis and other respiratory problems. It is not all too surprising that these effects would increase both the risk of contracting COVID19 and dying from it or its complications.
Ms. Gardiner turns to a positive tone, though, as the need for lockdowns and social distancing has led to cleaner air and, although recognizing that those drastic measures could not be imposed on a permanent basis, poses the question that it is now in everyone’s mind: Will we have the courage to learn from this experience and implement immediate and sustainable measures for real CLIMATE ACTION?
Recently I have discontinued purchasing disposable straws, and I am trying to reduce the use of plastic wrap and bags as much as possible. I am also decreasing the amount of waste from our home, not only in terms of garbage, but also by diverting produce scraps to the compost pile, and reducing and reusing as many glass, plastic and cardboard containers as possible, because after all, there is a considerable amount of energy and emissions involved in the transportation and processing of recyclable materials withal. I also have found that having a vegetable garden in the backyard is a lovely way to access healthy, clean and zero-mile produce; eliminating a few trips to the supermarket comes as a valuable bonus, to save gas and fuel emissions, and to observe social distancing during this crisis.
In the photo at the top of this post, my basil seedlings in a re-purposed packaging box, and below, young tomatillo and tomato plants in milk cartons, coffee bags and a tea can, all growing indoors until the weather gets warm:
I have already harvested spring parsley for a Mediterranean sauce (photo below, left, growing in my backyard) and dug a nice crop of overwintered parsnips (right):
Although this year’s Earth Day events are running digitally due to covid19, the movement is not changing its tempo (visit https://www.earthday.org/earth-day-live/ to watch live on Wednesday April 22, 2020). As a matter of fact, the pandemic has given us a chance to see in real time that fewer motorized vehicles on the streets, less pollution from factories, and less waste from superfluous consumerism, can clear the air and considerably reduce garbage in a matter of weeks, when there is a global effort involved. Let’s all do our part by joining the movement, following domestic and international news about concrete Climate Action plans, and/or by establishing changes in our daily life, even small ones, towards more environmentally friendly options.
Happy 50th Anniversary, Earth Day!
I am linking to Cee’s Flower of the Day (FOTD) challenge for April 22.
I am joining Wonderful Wednesday Blog Hop with co-hosts Beverly @ Eclectic Red Barn, Penny @ Penny’s Passion, Sinea @ Ducks in a Row, Tammy @ My Life Abundant, Jennifer @ Engineer Mommy, Cindy @ Simple Steps for Living Life, Ahna @ Hammers ‘n Hugs, Tara @ Stilettos and Shiplap,Brittany @ The Snyder Family, Emily @ Le Cultivateur, and Angela @ The Short Order Cook.