On the first Earth Day, I was 10 years old. I don’t think I knew it had been declared Earth Day because I wasn’t even reading the newspaper yet. I was nearing the end of fifth grade, a pivotal year in my life when I began to form an anti-authoritarian attitude because I had what I can only call a low-level fascist teacher.
Now, it’s the 50th anniversary of our only “holiday” that honors the natural world, and we’re living in a pandemic with a kleptocratic, neo-fascist president who surrounds himself with yes-men (and a few yes-women). Every day that he calls for reopening business despite the death and increased disability that will follow, he’s also gutting environmental protections from toxic materials, erasing fuel standards for vehicles, and generally denying the existence of climate change through his policy actions.
Despite that reality, my hope for this Earth Day anniversary is that the pandemic — the effects of which will be directly felt for months if not years — will lead us to major changes and a kind of rebirth in what we value and how we run our country. A rebirth that is more consistent with the mission of streets.mn and a world that’s in a climate crisis.
The writer of a recent piece on Medium described the realizations many of us have been feeling in this time. He hopes for those kinds of changes, that type of rebirth, as well:
What the trauma has shown us…cannot be unseen. A carless Los Angeles has clear blue skies as pollution has simply stopped. In a quiet New York, you can hear the birds chirp in the middle of Madison Avenue. Coyotes have been spotted on the Golden Gate Bridge. These are the postcard images of what the world might be like if we could find a way to have a less deadly daily effect on the planet. What’s not fit for a postcard are the other scenes we have witnessed: a health care system that cannot provide basic protective equipment for its frontline; small businesses — and very large ones — that do not have enough cash to pay their rent or workers, sending over 16 million people to seek unemployment benefits; a government that has so severely damaged the credibility of our media that 300 million people don’t know who to listen to for basic facts that can save their lives….
If we want to create a better country and a better world for our kids, and if we want to make sure we are even sustainable as a nation and as a democracy, we have to pay attention to how we feel right now.
Governor Walz used a different metaphor in his moving State of the State address. He talked about the pandemic as winter, and how we as people who live in a winter state know how to survive that, and that we will be able to come out of it in the spring.
Other writers who have made similar points:
- A Green Stimulus to Rebuild Our Economy
- The World After This
- Coronavirus may get America to pass its biggest climate bill yet
- Here’s what a coronavirus-like response to the climate crisis would look like
- Even Dave Roberts’ late-January article on Vox called Social tipping points are the only hope for climate relates. It wasn’t his intention at the time, but I think it fits in.
Here are some visions of what parts of the change could look like:
- How to align economy and ecology
- Elizabeth Sawin (who is part of the intellectual apparatus descended from The Limits to Growth collective) is assembling examples from around the world that show this kind of rebirth.
I’m staying hopeful that this pandemic is a big enough lever to fundamentally shift the layers of concrete and steel that have been laid on top of our humanity over the past two centuries of industrialism.