“We must act decisively to protect our planet from both the coronavirus and the existential threat of climate disruption” (António Guterres, UN Secretary-General).
In 1970, a 25-year-old graduate student, Denis Hayes, organized the first Earth Day. The resounding success of that event, which brought out 20 million Americans (10% of the United States population at the time), helped to spark the modern environmental movement. Today, 50 years later, we have different, much larger and notably global, environmental challenges.
This year’s Earth Day theme is climate action, an initiative more necessary than ever, given how Mother Earth is clearly urging for a change. Nature is suffering: Australian bushfires, heat records or the worst locust invasion in Kenya are just the most recent manifestations of the climate emergency that is plaguing our planet. Now, we face COVID-19, a worldwide health pandemic linked to the health of our ecosystem.
This Mother Earth Day, coinciding with the Super Year of Biodiversity, is focused on its role as an indicator of the Earth’s health. Given the current situation we are facing, it might be more necessary than ever to remember that one new infectious disease emerges in humans every 4 months, and that 75% of these emerging diseases come from animals.
There is enough evidence that a healthy ecosystem helps to protect us from these diseases, as biological diversity makes it difficult for pathogens to spread rapidly. And yet, despite on-going efforts, biodiversity is deteriorating worldwide at unprecedented rates in human history. It is estimated that around one million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction. Fighting climate change and biodiversity loss turning to sustainable models will not only help Nature, but human health.
Despite the existential threat to climate change, today countries are rolling back environmental protections, failing to live up to the Paris Agreement and dragging their feet on climate action. Luckily, the environmental movement has gained momentum, thanks in no small part to an infusion of energy and outrage from the youth climate movement. We need to close the commitment gap between what we say we will do and what we need to do to prevent dangerous levels of climate change. Governments cannot afford to wait. People and families cannot afford to wait. Delayed action delays the inevitable.
Let’s remind more than ever in this International Mother Earth Day that the Earth and its ecosystems are our common home, and that it is necessary to promote harmony with Nature in order to achieve a just balance among the economic, social and environmental needs of present and future generations. Since the industrial revolution, Nature has been treated as a commodity that exists largely for the benefit of people. In order to meet the basic needs of a growing population within the limits of the Earth’s finite resources, there is a need to devise a more sustainable model for production, consumption and the economy as a whole.
MABI celebrates Earth Day keeping in mind that devising a new world will require a new relationship with the Earth. No matter where you are in this world, we are connected by our challenges and a fierce and urgent determination to overcome them.
On Earth Day 2020, we take on the fight for our common home, together.