Coronavirus Lessons Apply To Muted Earth Day Celebrations

Melissa Culross
April 19, 2020 - 12:24 pm
A crowd of people gather near a large poster that shows a speach bubble from planet Earth that reads 'Help!!', on the occaision of the first Earth Day conservation awareness celebration, New York, New York, April 22, 1970.

Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Like so many aspects of life right now, celebrations for Earth Day are bound to be disrupted worldwide by the COVID-19 pandemic.

We know Earth Day events across the Bay Area won't be the same.

In many cases, they have been replaced by online, at-home activities.

While the shelter-in-place orders have led to less car pollution, Conservation International’s Shyla Raghav said that won’t have the long-term impact you might think it does.

"They’re likely just going to be temporary, and we haven’t really, as a society, made the systemic shifts that are needed for these gains to persist or be sustained in the long term," Raghav said.

This year’s Earth Day theme is climate change.

Raghav thinks the coronavirus pandemic could have long-lasting effects on the climate.

"Putting a strain on vulnerable populations or even increasing things like heat stress," Raghav said. "The human health implications are even going to be even more difficult to deal with when compounded with viruses and disease like COVID-19."

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 15: Protesters carry signs as they march during the Youth Climate Strike on March 15, 2019 in San Francisco, California.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Raghav said these impacts remind us there are ways we can fight climate change every day, not just on Earth Day.

"Support natural climate solutions, which includes planting of trees, restorations of natural ecosystems, and protection of standing forests," Raghav said. "Because a third or more of the solution to climate change comes from protecting and restoring nature."

Of course, Raghav thinks there’s always more we can do as a society.

"Clean and renewable energy; greening our agricultural system and our food system through regenerative agriculture and towards more of a plant-based diet," Raghav said. "Shifting to public transportation and the reduction of overall consumption [of items> like plastics."

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day.

Hear more of Raghav's interview here.