Celebrating Earth Day

Green Team leaders Nekhil Govender, Torr Large and Marina Fabris

There is a lot of bad news these days surrounding COVID-19, and there is no denying its destruction and impacts on families and economies the world over. However, as with any crisis or time of emergency, it brings out the best in people, and through our efforts to stop COVID and its spread, some very positive side effects have emerged. That is what we, two of your three Green Team heads, would like to focus on as we look to celebrate Earth Day.

by Torr Large, Grade 11

Before COVID-19 hit, I would often think of having a game or movie night with my family, playing with my sister, or cooking a new dish. Unfortunately, as all SMUS students know, there is just no time. Between homework, extracurriculars, and maybe the odd opportunity to see a friend, my schedule is full. Even over breaks, we travel or somehow find something else to busy us up. About a month ago, though, everything changed. What’s going on in the world around us prevented us from seeing people outside my family; it would not allow travel, and it stopped the stream of homework. Just about every single habit, routine, and system I used to have broke. And it was just the thing I needed. During my time in isolation, I have found the time to make soap out of bacon grease, spend time outside with my sister, and soon I am going to plant squash, pumpkins, corn, carrots and more in my backyard.

The way we have responded to COVID-19 also happens to be exactly what the planet needs. Changes we are seeing to the climate are baffling, and things previously unimaginable and thought impossible have, within a month, become reality.

Listen to this: Venice’s previously murky waterways are now clear and blue, and “nature has returned and is taking back possession of the city.” In China there has been “a 50% reduction in things like nitrous oxide and carbon monoxide [in the air] due to the shutting down of heavy industries and factories.” Delhi, for once, has blue skies and visible stars at night. These environmental ‘miracles’ are direct results of adjustments we, humans across the world, have made to our daily lives. What it really goes to show is that if we want to make a change – even at an international level – we actually can. We are doing it right now.

So before we scramble to put our lives back together to exactly the way they were before COVID-19, take a moment to consider what you can do differently this time around when you build your life and routines back up again.

What habits from this strange time-period can we learn from, and keep, in order to stay on our current path of regeneration and ‘healing’ across the globe?

by Nekhil Govender, Grade 11

During Spring Break, I came across a 2015 TED Talk called, “The Next Outbreak? We’re not ready.” The speaker, Bill Gates, asserted that if anything were to kill millions of people in the next few decades, it would likely be a highly infectious virus. Had the world heeded this warning, we could have been more prepared for this pandemic. In an aha-moment, I realized that there are some glaring lessons in the COVID-19 crisis that should be applied to climate change.

At the start of the pandemic, “disbelievers” undermined the threat of COVID-19. The science was ignored and the problem quickly escalated out of control. Where climate change is concerned, we see a similar scenario: there is strong scientific consensus that global warming is occurring. We cannot afford to ignore this fact any longer.

With COVID-19, delays to act led to exponential growth in the number of cases and deep economic stagnation. The climate crisis represents a significant challenge to the future of humanity and, as such, requires a swifter response than the one in motion.

The fight against COVID-19 has called for the collective action of all people, in all countries. Similarly, climate action needs to be a coordinated and collaborative effort that’s carried out by the entire world. Sustainability needs to drive everybody’s everyday decision making.

The pandemic has highlighted the importance of science, speed and solidarity. These principles need to be applied to the fight against climate change. There is a colossal amount of research-based information on the threat that climate change poses to humanity. I hope that the world will heed the warnings of the scientific community and prepare appropriately so we can give ourselves and generations to come to a safe and sustainable future.

I would like to remind everyone that Wednesday, April 22 marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day and this year’s theme is climate action. To celebrate, please join the Green Team in attending a digital earth day event at earthday.org.

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