Every Earth Day, we are reminded of the interconnectedness of our world. As we find ourselves in the midst of the sixth mass extinction, the need to protect precious natural resources and ecosystems around the globe has never been greater. And as we careen from natural disaster to natural disaster – unprecedented floods, fires, storms, droughts – the fragility of our climate, which has been taken for granted for far too long, has become abundantly clear.
This year, amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, our interconnectedness has taken on new meaning. In just a few short months, the entire world has woken up to the harsh reality of the havoc that one tiny virus can wreak on our economy and way of life, no matter where we live and who we are. In addition to the devastation to families and communities who have lost loved ones, the fear triggered by this contagious pathogen, and the explosive, exponential consequences of failing to contain it, have rattled us to the core.
While the pause button has been pushed, many people have begun to reflect on the greater lessons to be learned. For one thing, sustainability in a post-Covid-19 worlds takes on new meaning, as Julie Reid writes in Sustainable Brands. Ms. Reid asks “Will we choose Human 101 or Human 3.0?”, where Human 101 revolves around an ‘us vs them’ mentality that is fearful, selfish, and short-sighted, while Human 3.0 is open, empathetic, and collaborative, oriented toward a sustainable future where there is enough to go around. She adds her voice to those who argue for a “regenerative economy,” where the goal is to leave things better than we found them.
But a regenerative economy depends on a stable climate. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has reported that time is quickly running out. Left unchecked, climate change could push the global mean temperature anomaly past the lower Paris target of 1.5-degrees Celsius as early as 2030. Like Covid-19, the trajectory of climate change is exponential, which makes it so difficult for us to grasp. And like Covid-19, concerted human intervention is needed right now to begin “levelling the curve” in order to avert the worst consequences.
Unlike Covid-19, there will be no such thing as “herd immunity” to climate change, either for us or for the countless species that depend on a stable climate. We have no choice but to buckle up for a bumpy ride, as we buckle down on strategies that can work at the scale needed –not just to reduce emissions, but to restore the earth’s energy balance. The Earth Day 2020 Theme, “Climate Action,” could not be more apropos.
On the positive side, the response to the global pandemic demonstrates that the world can turn on a dime, taking a time-out from business-as-usual to address an existential threat. The climate crisis demands nothing less. If we act now – adhering to the science and putting our collective technological and intellectual know-how to work – we can rebuild the economy for a viable future that is climate resilient, inclusive, and sustainable for people and our planet.
We encourage the public to take part in Earth Day 2020 activities, including a series of personal actions related to Fresh Water, Wildlife, Food, People, Forests, Ocean, and Climate (#EarthDay2020 #EarthRise #EarthWeek), and the Earth Challenge 2020, a global citizen science initiative focused on Plastics, Air Quality, Insects, Climate, Food Security, and Water Quality. There’s plenty of work for everyone.
Linda G. Brown is co-founder and Senior Vice President of SCS Global Services. To reach her, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.