It’s been fifty years since the first Earth Day in 1970. That year brought us the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the National Environmental Education Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, the Clean Air Act and two years later the Clean Water Act. Sometimes Earth Day comes and goes without much consideration. This year has to be different. We’ve been given an unprecedented look at how the planet unfurls without much human interference. Below are five illuminating developments from the past month that show us the change we’re capable of.
Los Angeles is currently experiencing the cleanest air on record since 1980. Less nitrogen dioxide means clearer skies and healthier bodies. According to recent studies, more exposure to traffic fumes means weaker lungs and greater risk of dying from COVID-19, stroke and other respiratory diseases. Similar reports have been shared from major cities from around the world. New York, London, Rome, Delhi, Seoul, Mumbai, Sao Paulo, Madrid -all are reporting cleaner air. It’s like the Earth is taking its first deep breath in decades.
If you’re in an urban setting, you’ll notice that the birds are louder, or rather it’s that we can finally hear them. Cities where residents didn’t even think there were birds at all, are suddenly noticing a whole new ecosystem outside their apartments. It’s delightful, but it’s also so important for our health. Noise pollution severely affects our well-being, contributing to stress-related ailments, high blood pressure, sleep disruption, and other problems. (Photo credit Lehman Pekkola)
With the cities quieting, wild animals are feeling safe to explore a world that was once all theirs. The usually crowded beaches of Brazil are now host to thousands of baby sea turtles free to meet the world with out danger. Wild boars are strolling the streets of Barcelona and long horned goats have descended from their mountain top home into the streets of one Wales town. Two giant pandas in one Hong Kong zoo, closed to public, finally felt safe to mate. Images of coyotes on the Golden Gate bridge are a reminder that the world doesn’t belong only to us. There are ways to design our cities in recognition that we share the earth with wildlife. Singapore is leading the way with biophilic architecture that incorporates habitats for wildlife.
The lack of tourists and the boats they travel, means that water all over the world is cleaner and marine life is less stressed. The canals of Venice are running clear for the first time in recent history. With no cruise ships blasting through ocean waters, scientists are able to observe the seas with more acuity. It’s a vital time to do uninterrupted research on creatures such as whales- whose patterns are most deeply affected by the noise of our boats.
Backyard star-gazing is up. Less light pollution means the stars are appearing brighter. Our universe, and our place in it, is coming into a clearer view. With the earth sparkling as brightly as it does now, we all might be more moved to preserve it.
All of these developments are not just silver linings- they can be catalysts for change. We are reminded that there are other ways to live, work and run our businesses. The environmental impact of the way we consume and manufacture is immediate and profound. The COVID-19 crisis has made that exceptionally clear. When we started Kalon with the goal of sustainable, restorative manufacturing processes people told us we were crazy. One expert after the next told us it was bad business and would fail. But it has been 11 years since then and we have seen countless successes. For example, after adopting our manufacturing techniques, the HAPS emissions of our shop dropped to undetectable levels. As a result the shop no longer had to pay steep pollution fees. By using our natural oil finishes, the shop was also able to expand production capabilities because they were able bypass strict venting and containment requirements. Adopting our small batch methods mean higher efficiencies, less storage and less waste but also lower energy, storage and transport costs. The list goes on. What it all proves is that there is a way of producing where consideration is made for the environment and humans.
The climate science of other planets is not debated. No one is arguing about the climate on Mars. It is only Earth’s climate science that people debate. We have to ask ourselves why. A simple answer is that Earth is the only planet where money and business is at stake. When the COVID-19 crisis ends, and we are able to return to work and our lives, we will have a choice about how we move forward. It’s up to us to ameliorate these times. Winston Churchill said “Don’t let a crisis go to waste”. Let’s not let this one go by with out making the world we re-enter a better one.