Happy Earth Day!
Tomorrow is April 22, celebrated around the world as Earth Day. Since the holiday was first celebrated in 1970 to mark the enactment of the National Environmental Policy Act, more than 190 countries around the world have joined in. Each year, over one billion people mobilize for environmental action on April 22, and this year will surely be the biggest Earth Day yet.
Happy Earth Day!
On the eve of Earth Day 2021, let’s take a minute to reflect on the state of our relationship with the planet:
- The last four years of environmental policy have by-and-large ignored science, and the impacts to our climate and natural spaces have been monstrous.
- Spending the majority of 2020 socially distanced has renewed our love for open spaces (and perhaps even each other).
- Thanks to new policies coming from the Biden Administration, we have hope for a healthier planet.
Each April, we celebrate our love for Mother Nature and all that she does to make our lives happy and comfortable. We do what we can to care for her just as she cares for us – or at least some of us do.
Why Does Donald Trump Hate Nature?
Over the past four years, the Trump Administration worked tirelessly to roll back the environmental and humanitarian protections that are the very bedrock of Earth Day – the United States Environmental Protection Agency, Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act. Up until the eleventh hour of his reign, Trump effectively dismantled a staggering total of nearly 100 environmental rules. The long list of rule reversals included protections against harmful activities of air pollution and emissions, drilling and extraction, infrastructure and planning, animals and wildlife, water pollution, toxic substances, and environmental safety. A number of these roll backs were meant as a petty jab at the successes of the Obama Administration, which enacted several policies aimed at decreasing the carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, cars, and trucks and implemented stronger protections for our wetlands and wildlife, including:
- The Clean Power Plan,
- Updates to the Endangered Species Act,
- The Coal Ash Rule,
- The Waters of the United States Rule, and
- The Mercury and Air Toxic Standards.
These are just a few key policies and regulations designed to protect not just our environment, but human health as well. As a result, we are all getting a little sicker and a little sadder every day.
We have been subjected to decades of propaganda aimed at convincing us that environmental protection slows economic growth and limits financial opportunity. The powers-that-be tell us these lies to protect the world’s most polluting industries from the disruptive forces of necessary change. But preventing the catastrophic impacts of climate change, ecosystem loss, extinction, pollution, and other environmental harms is not just the right thing to do for the planet, it’s the smart thing to do for our economies. Fortunately, it appears as if we are at the beginning of a new administration that understands this.
The Biden Administration Celebrates Earth Days
With an increased demand for more aggressive climate action, the Biden Administration is hearing the calls and making environmental issues more of a priority than we have seen likely since the creation of Earth Day in April 1970.
With the new presidential administration working towards a net-zero emissions goal by 2050 in the United States, we are sure to see more positive unprecedented environmental initiatives like these in the coming days. Even just within the first few moments of being in office, the Biden Administration started to mend the wounds created by the Trump Administration.
First, Biden ordered the Department of Interior staff to stop issuing new fossil fuel leases and permits on public lands and waters without approval from a top political appointee. This move effectively froze new oil, gas, and coal development across the country for the following two months. Next, Biden reentered the United States into the Paris Climate Accord and made quick work of shutting down the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline. The administration is now moving forward with increasing industry accountability for pollution, which means there will finally be greater economic, social, and reputable implications for polluting companies. These are huge, tangible successes for the environment - but of course, they are not without their own challenges and costs.
When we talk about Earth Day, we focus on Mother Earth and the healing she needs. But it is equally important to remember that we need to bring focus to the cause of the harm - our daily human activities. We need to make conscious efforts to work towards resolving the harm. That starts by evaluating what we can do to make sure we are not leaving any tree, human, or community behind as we change course to a better us in a better world.
We Care Now More Than Ever – Why Don’t They?
More people care about our environment today than ever before. About 81% of the American population believe in global warming - an all-time high. Even so, our political leadership has spent years completely out of touch, selfishly refusing to align with the majority of the populations’ trust in environmental science. This led to an increase in the mass distain Americans have for the lack of limits on greenhouse gas emissions and the wasted time in an already sensitive timeline.
Our mental health, physical health, and emotional health are interconnected with the wellbeing of our environment, on both the micro and macro scale. This has been especially true during the past year; more people have turned to outdoor activities and the trails are packed from people taking strolls around the neighborhood park to heading into the vast wilderness. In 2019, the outdoor recreation economy made up 2.1% of the country’s gross domestic product and that’s not accounting for the considerable boom the industry saw during 2020.
There is a direct correlation between recreating outdoors and having an appreciation for the environment. People crave the connection with the environment and cultivate a lasting and sustained relationship with nature through recreation, whether walking, hiking, biking, hunting, kayaking, skiing, climbing, camping, etc. As long as people are conducting themselves with respect for the places they adventure, there will be nature for all of us to enjoy.
And, if not for the environment itself, for our personal mental health. This past year has been extraordinarily heavy for all of us, but especially for our community members who are disproportionately impacted by a number of injustices experienced daily. For them, and others similarly situated, it would be naïve to ignore that finding nature to explore is a luxury rather than a right.
On this Earth Day, let’s be intentional about bringing attention to our communities who we can share more of this release and joy of nature with.