Earth Day is April 22 and this year marks its 50th anniversary. Earth Day has marked many turning points in society: in the 1970s it helped bring in the Environmental Protection Act (US EPA); in the 1990s, the 3R’s ‘Reduce Reuse Recycle’; and in the 2000s, Earth Day brought attention to shifts needed to avert and adapt for climate change. Earth Day is now widely recognized as the largest secular observance on the planet but on April 22, 2020, we won’t gather. At least not physically. Let’s pause to consider then: What will this Earth Day be remembered for? Where are we at? Has a disruption like this ever happened before? If so, how did it change what society did next? This health emergency has increased our understanding of the difference between needs and wants. If we lack access to health and livelihoods, we lack basic security. But if we have them, we have the ability to not just survive, but to thrive. As we learn through this outbreak, and prepare for a post-covid future, collective health and livelihoods are our common needs. It’s been said that health is the human face of climate change. Learning from this pandemic and building for future health and livelihoods, marks Earth Day 2020.
This virus has run like a tidal wave through the economy and every part of society. It has shown us our vulnerability and also our grace. Extremely hard work and cooperation are underway at every level – globally, nationally, regionally and personally. People are amazing and resourceful especially in times of need – kindness has gone viral. We know our world has changed and that it is time to update. Societal health depends on a livable climate and our economy depends on both.
Numerous well-recognized think-tanks have carried out analyses that consider socio-economic and environmental interdependencies as they relate to long term recovery, as well as immediate needs. This report by Pembina Institute: Green Stimulus: Principles and recommendations for a 2020 economic stimulus package (March 30, 2020), offers suggestions related to:
-Employment that is resilient to future economic shocks as the world seeks to limit warming to 1.5c.
-Industries and businesses that produce low-carbon goods and services to expand Canada’s low-carbon economy and secure our domestic supply chain.
– Decisions for stimulus and relief through a lens of Canada’s climate commitments.
– Economic stimulus that supports job maintenance and creation and climate action in building, electricity, transportation, etc.
-Existing channels to quickly disburse funds across Canada’s economy (including the Low Carbon Economy Fund, provincial energy efficiency agencies, Canada Infrastructure Bank, and others).
A post-covid sustainable future is our next iteration. Health depends on a livable climate. Together we are innovative and resourceful. We are social and compassionate by nature. And we already embrace multidisciplinary technical collaboration. On this golden anniversary of Earth Day, our focus on health and prosperity is a gold nugget of hope for the future. One that will be remembered in the passage of time as a turning point.