I wouldn’t even dare to hope to write something that’d be anywhere close to doing justice to a day that isn’t just Earth Day, but the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. I doubt it’s even possible, since there can be nothing more important for our species than the one planet we can live on, currently and for the foreseeable future, the planet we share with all other lifeforms we’re currently aware of, and the planet we are, or should be, responsible for. This should make us finally realize that our position as the dominant species that’s also capable of altering the entire ecosystem, the planet as a whole, according to our will makes us its stewards, not its masters. It should make us finally realize that our position gives us a duty to care for it and all other species we share it with, offering good living conditions for them as well and fixing the damage already caused, not any right to exploit and destroy at will, for the fulfillment for our selfish, short-term and usually shortsighted whims and desires.
Of course, that means there should be no need and, in fact, no place for a particular Earth Day. Every day should be Earth Day, and not in any formal sense, but in terms of our behavior, also as individuals but mainly as a society and as a species. Our lives, all rules and regulations, be they written or unwritten, the systems and concepts that our society is based on, they must all recognize these truths and be shaped according to them. This should have happened decades ago, probably around the time of the first Earth Day, this being a necessary condition for avoiding disaster and offering all those alive today the chance to have a good life on a healthy planet, but if we would just stop right now, immediately, and overhaul everything according to these principles, we may still have a chance to avoid the worst of it and allow for a better future, even if it may well be too distant for us to experience ourselves.
Unfortunately, what’s actually happening is quite the opposite, the crisis caused by the new coronavirus being pretty much the only thing almost everyone seems to still be able to think or talk about. Some environmental problems may still enter the mainstream, but only when it comes to how they relate to the appearance or effects of this virus, an event of this magnitude being required for the much bigger crisis affecting the environment, a crisis that we are directly responsible for, to get a passing mention, if even that. And that’s despite the fact that the magnitude of the environmental crisis should be perfectly obvious even from that infuriating anthropocentric point of view that’s such a major part of its cause, for example even the most conservative estimates stating that the reduced air pollution caused by the reduction in economic activity caused by the measures taken against the new virus saves many times more lives than the virus takes, and that’s even without considering the effects of air pollution on the death rates of COVID-19 patients.
Admittedly, there is an initiative, supported by many media institutions and journalists, aimed at changing that, but when you look at what’s actually happening, even those partners that pay it more than lip service don’t act anything like they’d be in any way aware of the true importance and gravity of the situation. Plus that even that initiative is only focused on climate change, which is but a symptom of our behavior, and likely not even the most important one, and the stories published on the current topic of “climate solutions” may well do more harm than good, offering the false impression that technological “fixes” and/or small lifestyle changes could somehow solve the problem and still allow for business as usual to more or less continue, allowing people to feel good about themselves while in fact continuing to worsen the problem, or at least doing far from enough to have any significant beneficial effects.
On that topic, did watch Planet of the Humans last night and found the general idea to be absolutely correct. That doesn’t mean that my otherwise poor opinion of Michael Moore changed, because even if he supposedly took a step back in order for his collaborators to actually produce this documentary, the reasons for that poor opinion are obvious here as well, starting with conspiracy theories and also including the editing that’s all over the place, at times making the film hard to follow, and the misleading practices sometimes used when presenting the other side’s position, which is in fact so precarious that it’s actually strengthened by such practices, which only serve to seed doubt in the minds of discerning viewers. But, definitely, this “bright green” focus on technological solutions, the green energy that the documentary is mainly about but all other aspects as well, not to mention the even less relevant “everyday actions” supported by “light greens“, all of this isn’t just by no means enough, but likely harmful, for the reason I already stated above.
On the other hand, I’d have obviously wanted to see far more about overpopulation, which actually is the biggest problem, the one that needs to be solved before we’ll have any real chance to solve any other major environmental or social one, and which was indeed presented as not just the elephant but the entire herd of elephants in the room, yet was otherwise only offered one brief section that hardly included any real discussion. And I’d have liked those conspiracy theories about doing it all for profit to be replaced with the view, which was also only allowed a brief segment, that the environmentalists who advocate such “fixes” do so out of their need to believe that we can save ourselves and pretty much continue as we are, which belief causes them to delude themselves in such a manner in order to avoid despairing. But, again, the general idea is that such “fixes” can’t ever work and we need a fundamental shift, to use far less, be far fewer, live and behave very differently, also as individuals but mainly as a society, and that idea is absolutely correct.
The thing is that the current crisis proves that much can be done when people recognize that a crisis exists… Which obviously means that we never have recognized that any sort of environmental crisis existed at all, and still don’t, even the many environmental benefits of the current measures being only accidental and harming many in ways that could and should have been avoided if the measures would have been taken in the right way and for the right reasons, not to mention at the right time.
Speaking of those benefits, the magnitude of the necessary changes should become even clearer when you realize that, even if again focusing only on the matter of climate change, the estimated emissions reductions, while unprecedented and so far nearly unimaginable, are barely two thirds of what’d be necessary, and that’s according to estimates that usually tend to be too optimistic anyway. Yet plans for the necessary complete overhaul are nowhere to be seen and even some calling for local and far lesser improvements are few and far between, while on the other hand those seeking to make things much worse don’t waste any time. Just this list of policies being rolled back should be enough to make anyone shudder and despair, and that’s again focused on climate change and primarily on the United States, so one can only imagine how much is missing from it.
However, in the end… Today is Earth Day. Today is the Earth Day that falls on the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. Tomorrow is Earth Day. Tomorrow is the Earth Day that falls the day after the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. We need to recognize that, and act like it. Or at least those of us who recognize it need to act like it. If we don’t, who will?
Yes, it certainly looks like a lost battle, but continuing to fight it means that we, this world and all the species we share, or should be sharing, it with still have at least a theoretical chance. If we stop, or do less than we could, or delude ourselves into thinking that completely insufficient and possibly even harmful measures could be the right ones, only then will it all be truly lost. And maybe “there’s always hope, at least that’s what I tell myself when I awaken in the middle of the night and the only sound I can hear is the beating of my own desperate heart” may seem like a good way to put it, but hope isn’t really required. Belief in any chance of success isn’t required. We will fight because we must. Because it’s the difference between most probably failing and certainly failing. Most of all, we will fight because all reasonably advanced life on this planet, including many people who can do little more than barely survive and who may still, even in this day and age, lack the tools, the information or, to put it bluntly, the mental capacity required to even comprehend the severity of the situation, need us to.