Earth Day 2020 is here today - the event's 50th anniversary. Historically, environmental protection is a fair-weather cause; it emerges as a political priority in times of financial security, only to be shuffled to the back burner with the next recession.
However, the current global crisis of COVID-19 may be what we need to finally break that cycle.
The environment tends to disappear from headlines in tough times, because we find the problem too big. Many of us don't know where to start. However, if COVID-19 has taught us anything, it's the importance of thinking globally, and acting locally. Flattening our curve has come down to small, simple actions like staying home, washing our hands and keeping our distance.
Environmental change is no different - small changes add up. Images of clear water in Venice - for the first time in decades - and clear skies over many metropolitan areas, show us what a reduction in our global consumption can do.
The coronavirus, and the social isolation and financial constraints it has brought, have forced us all to look inward, to take stock of what we really need, what we can let go, and has shown us how a simple life can be satisfying. We're rediscovering the simple joys of going for a walk, of spending time at home with our families, of home cooking, of making do with what we have.
Earth Day, and Earth Week, are usually times we come together as a community for park and waterfront clean-ups and school yard events. Although large-scale events are a fun way to support a cause, the lesson can be as fleeting as the day, as we zoom on to the next big event on our calendars. Environmental action, like flattening our curve, requires small, but steady steps. Instead of a community clean-up, everyone getting into the habit of picking up a piece or two of trash during family walks - or placing our trash in a trash can in the first place - could make for more lasting change than a one-day community clean-up.
There are plenty of ideas and information out there to get us started. Through the Rainy River District School Board, local families have access to www.connectednorth.org/athome, which is hosting a number of Earth Day videos and activities for kids. Through www.earthday.org, we can join in on events from across the globe, without spending any carbon to get there. Through there, you can see livestreamed planetarium shows from Winnipeg, or learn to grow vegetables from the Toronto Botanical Gardens. The Story of Stuff Project and David Suzuki's Queen of Green are sources of everyday action, along with dozens of Facebook groups devoted to practical, everyday ways to reduce single-use plastics.
Whether you're cleaning around your home or roaming the digital globe this Earth Day, remember the lesson we've learned from COVID-19: even small actions add up.
Earth Day is every day, and we can all make a difference.