Above: Millvale neighbors work together in the community garden.
By Zaheen Hussain, Director of Sustainability
The first Earth Day was celebrated 50 years ago today. With COVID-19, I think we can all agree that this is perhaps one of the strangest Earth Weeks in the all the years we have observed this occasion.
Many of us with the privilege of being able to telework are settling into our routine after a month. Many of us who cannot work at home are counting our blessings and heading into our workplace in protective clothing, knowing we must fulfil our roles as essential workers with full courage on display. Then there are many of us who neither have the privilege of telework nor the status of essential worker, and with very limited aid, are struggling to make ends meet and are reliant on the goodwill of our neighbors to be able to put food in our bellies. Times are tough and Earth Day is the last thing on many of our minds.
While it feels like the fabric of our global society is being stretched to its furthest limits and the impact of this virus leaves a sense of walls closing in around us, fear not, for there are lessons to learn from the rock we call Earth, our home.
The biggest lesson the Earth can teach us in this moment is resilience. Okay, okay, I know, for those of us in the sustainability field, resilience carries an air of cliché. This next part gets a little dense, but bear with me.
It is irrefutable that in the past ~200 years of our ~300,000 year existence, humans have created a shocking amount of environmental damage. We have left behind the Holocene, the epoch in which we developed as a species, and have entered a whole new epoch, the Anthropocene, characterized by both anthropogenic climate change as well as the geomorphological traces we will leave behind alongside our fossil record (roads, skyscrapers, mines, houses, you get the picture).
Despite this, scientists can say with confidence that human impact pales in comparison to the experiences our planet touts on its resumé. Earth has been a ball of fire. Earth has been a ball of ice. There have been extinction level volcanic explosions. There have been extinction level asteroids. Earth may have even been crashed into by another planet, the satellite remnants of which we can still see every day, lovingly calling it Moon.
All this to say, every time the earth has been knocked down, it has gotten back up, bold and beautiful, steadfast in its journey around the Sun and the Universe. It takes its punches, recalibrates and keeps moving, often in an existence that shares little resemblance to its prior state.
On this historic Golden Jubilee Earth Day, we can all learn from Earth’s lesson on resilience. When it feels like all the world’s weight is on our shoulders; when it feels like a cosmic body is smashing through our lives like a bull in a china shop, remember that we are all interconnected as a part of this world and we all share the spirit of resilience, baked into our existence.
Earth Day, after all, is more about us than it is about Earth. It’s about making sure that we respect and contribute to the balance of our ecosystems, not just because it’s “good for our planet,” but because if we don’t, we will work ourselves out of the environment in which we came to be, no longer able to survive as a species.
In that same spirit, let’s continue to be there for each other in our time of need, because our individual resilience is woven into the fabric of our societal resilience. When one of us falls, we all fall a little bit. When we lift up those around us, we all rise a little bit.
Donate to your local food pantry if you can. Volunteer from physical distance if you can. If you have a friend or neighbor in need, check in on them; see if there is something you can do to help them move through the storm. Make some masks if you can. Share some good news when you find it. Most importantly, take care of yourself. Go for a walk. Cook a delicious meal. Take a breath of fresh air (at least six feet away from a stranger though). Enjoy a hike in a nearby park. Go stargazing — with everyone driving less and there being less smog, the stars are brighter than ever! Ultimately, here’s to you, our resilient neighbor!
From the New Sun Ring team, we wish you all a great Earth Day today and every day!