Celebrating Earth Day 2021

By Arun N. Toké, editor.

Earth Day 2021 Greetings!

While we have been observing Earth Day for over 50 years now, the rapid decline in diversity of species and livability on our planet continues unabated. Why?

The issues are numerous and complex: the problems of air, water and soil pollution; the loss of biodiversity, wildlife and wilderness; deforestation; nuclear threat; ecological issues due to overuse of pesticides, herbicides, and chemical fertilizers; and ocean warming. On top of that, the overuse of single-use plastics all over the world and lack of proper recycling facilities add to the plastic pollution problem. And our Covid-19 pandemic response has increased the use of throwaway plastic products to another level.

But, the climate change crisis that we face is the biggest problem of all. While our governments and business leaders may give lip service and say they are doing everything to curb climate change, the situation remains an ecological emergency. The daily CO2 levels have reached 420 ppm recently. Global average temperature increases are sure to go beyond the Paris Accord limit of 1.5° or 2° C. And the results are likely to be devastating!

Nature nurtures us—not just human beings but all species. But if we continue to damage nature, there will be an ecological breakdown. We must learn to be responsible caretakers and conscientious consumers. How can we show our care and love for Mother Nature?

Often we hear solutions like: Use less plastic products, drive less, pick up trash, etc. These are noble goals on a personal level but we also need system-wide changes at national and international levels. We must urge our governments, as well as business, financial and industry leaders to stop their “business as usual!” We need to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy resources—wind, solar, geothermal, micro hydropower, etc. And, we must choose energy efficiency, resource recycling, and closed loop systems. In nature, one species’ waste is another species’ food! If we want true sustainability, we need to mimic this principle of No Waste! Shipping e-wastes, or discarded paper or plastic or scrap metal from developed countries to low-income countries under the guise of “recycling” is not a real solution!

What can we do about climate crisis? We must drastically cut the quantity of greenhouse gases released to the atmosphere—carbon dioxide and methane—and at the same time, sequester the greenhouse gases already present in our atmosphere. We must work on the problem from both ends to make a meaningful progress. We could plant trillions of trees and conserve our forests, locally and regionally, as they help reduce atmospheric CO2 by converting it to bio-matter.

In our own personal and family life, we can try to reduce our consumption of fossil fuels in all possible ways. For example, we can avoid unnecessary driving and minimize the use of automobiles in our family by using bicycles, public transportation, or walking when practical. Lots of our neighbors have installed heat pumps for heating their homes and thus cut down their oil and gas use for home heating.

We can reconsider where we purchase our groceries and which foods we consume. As much as possible, we can use local and organic products because they’re good for our health as well as the local economy, and also the planet. If we can, let’s buy our vegetables and fruits, etc., at local farms or farmer’s market. If there is a space for gardening, we can grow our own fresh produce. We can also have a rooftop or windowsill mini garden.

Let’s make a goal to consume non-animal foods to the extent we can, because producing meat contributes to climate change and it is ecologically damaging. We can rely on grains, veggies, fruits, nuts, and legumes instead. Yes, it is difficult to give up our habits. So we can try to reduce our consumption of meat and fish gradually. Start with skipping meat for a few days a week, or even for one meal a day. When we get used to that, we can cut it down further. I grew up without meat or fish for the first 20 years of my life, and for the last few decades, our household has avoided meat, poultry, and fish completely, so I know it can be done.

Let’s avoid single-use plastic products—plastic bags, eating utensils, straws, etc. There are many ways to avoid using disposable things in our daily life. We take our own reusable bags and containers when we go shopping. Let’s ditch the plastics habit for the sake of life on the planet!

The Covid-19 pandemic has shown us that we can cut our air travels to a minimum. Instead, we can take mini vacations nearby. Day trips are much easier to organize. We can walk, picnic, play and bicycle in our local parks and enjoy nature areas in the region instead of flying cross-country or to another country.

What else can you think of to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions? How can we keep our exceptional planet a livable planet for us and for all other living beings?

Let’s not forget that we are part of Nature; we are not an isolated species. Why not create regenerative systems that work in harmony with nature? Let’s plant seeds of happiness. We’ll reap what we sow. Let’s make this Earth Day a special day that will live in our memory for a LONG time by making a firm resolve to live in harmony with nature!

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