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Earth Day 2070

I truly believed this week, Earth Week, could be a magical one, when the world would come together to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the first Earth Day.

Many months ago, when I began thinking about how we would be marking this momentous anniversary, I envisioned everything that happened in 1970 on behalf of “Mother Earth.” The decade of the anti-establishment 1960’s actually peaked in 1970. Millions of people were in the streets in peaceful and turbulent protest; colleges students mounted teach-ins or occupied administration buildings; multiple generations were caught in the mod fashion of the day but they were also turned onto activism and issues. Earth Day 1970 and the “ecology movement” lead to a suite of sweeping legislation to protect our environment. 

Last summer, it seemed reasonable to think that on Earth Day 2020 in the midst of the existential climate crisis, the people of our earth would want to gather with even more urgency and turn out in bigger numbers than 1970 to change the condition of our planet—a planet besieged by anti-environmental policymakers, dark money billionaires and our own unsustainable lifestyles. Earth Day 2020 could be a catalyst to:   

  • Energize the myriad of people across the globe who are experiencing climate impacts who care deeply about addressing the climate crisis, who want to do something about it but don’t know how;   
  • Give birth to a new environmental movement—one that reorients itself to not only climate matters, but to the concerns of so many diverse and underserved communities who are dealing also with impacts from chronic pollution and other forms of environmental degradation;  
  • Raise up our youth climate strikers, and their courage and persistence; and
  • Mobilize caring citizens everywhere into an unstoppable political force to once and for all change the politics, in order to change the fate of our common climate.

Can COVID-19 take this dream away? It sure has put a dent into the tactic of turning out great numbers of people, in public, demonstrating against climate inaction, demanding accountability of elected officials and celebrating climate solidarity.  

But COVID-19 has not taken away our common humanity, interconnectedness, and reliance upon planetary health as foundational to our personal safety and well-being. If anything, this pandemic puts a finer point on these attributes. And, grimly, this public health emergency has deepened the disparities between underserved individuals and communities of color, and their ability to survive this deadly pandemic.

My hat is off to the organizations and activists everywhere that have quickly retooled plans for Earth Day 2020, including PennFuture and Conservation Voters of PA’s 30-Day Earth Challenge, and the Pittsburgh Earth Week Teach-In and 24-hour Climate Strike.

And while digital platforms are uniting us, I propose three actions—more surgical in nature—to ensure this momentous Earth Day does not come and go with only a whimper or sound tone from our smart phone:

  1. Run for Office. Nothing will change our political system faster than a new crop of climate-forward candidates. Once elected, you can effect real change. And the threat of an onslaught of challengers will threaten incumbent elected officials who have grown stagnant, entrenched in a broken system and to the influence of political action money;
  2. Vote. Make sure you are registered to vote, and that you actually vote. And make sure that everyone you know who is eligible to vote, is registered to vote, and that they actually vote. Here is everything you need to know about voting in Pennsylvania in 2020. 
  3. Contact your elected officials and demand they declare a climate emergency for their respective jurisdictions. Request they develop a climate change action and response plan.  Contact Governor Wolf and request that funds for this local climate planning—and implementation of existing climate action plans and projects—are included in any stimulus or economic recovery package that emerges as a result of the pandemic. 

Come with me to the date April 22, 2070—now the 100th anniversary of the first Earth Day. Will our Earth Week 2020 be one in which we found a way to rise up and break out, and break through the walls of our respective isolations, and despite the oppression of the pandemic, to find a way to recommit to the fight to save our planet, and our futures?

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