Earth Week & the Pandemic: Ironic Timing
By Sally Wagoner, 3R Environmental Education/CEWAC
There is a link between the coronavirus pandemic and our battered environment.
Science is showing that loss of native habitats, overcrowded human and animal conditions, climate changes causing the spread of bacterial and viral entities beyond their traditional geographies, and the toxins from over-industrialization that we dump in our soils, waters and air are all contributing to increased chronic diseases (such as cancers, COPD and heart disease) and acute illnesses (such as Lyme Disease infections and the Covid 19 pandemic).
But that link between the current global health crisis and the environment started at a deeper, more fundamental level than just where we build our cities and throw away our waste. That place is the broader perspective of where we as humans view ourselves in our Earth’s family of species and elements.
“We are all in this together”
I hear this often now, and see photos and social media posts of people rallying together to offer food, face masks and support. This is all needed, and us humans are great at doing this. We have done it time and again just in my lifetime: tornados, hurricanes, floods, terrorist attacks. But if we leave ourselves outside of Nature, then the life preservers that we humans create together will not float. We are in this together with Nature. She’s healthy, we’re healthy. She goes, we go. And it is our separation from Nature, our disconnection from our relationship with Nature, and the denying of our place with-IN the web of Nature, that has helped to ignite this and other disastrous events.
We Humans are at another crisis point or more accurately several tipping points, in our evolution as a global family. It intersects the climate crisis (whose basis is overuse and abuse of land and water beyond the means for homeostasis of our and all other species), with the pandemic crisis (whose basis is a manipulative relationship with our environment as opposed to a cooperative and reciprocating relationship). And as Isaac Chotiner discusses in “The Interwoven Threads of Inequality and Health” (April 14, The New Yorker) it often emerges as survival for those with the greatest wealth and power.
As a global human family, for the survival of us all, we must use this seminal moment to decide which directions we will intentionally choose to take. It will take leadership at the individual, family, community, state, country and global levels to look at every decision we make with respect to its impact on our near and far flung future.
Stealing from our Children and Grandchildren
"The Peacemaker taught us about the Seven Generations. He said, when you sit in council for the welfare of the people, you must not think of yourself or of your family, not even of your generation. He said, make your decisions on behalf of the seven generations coming, so that they may enjoy what you have today." (Oren Lyons, Seneca, Faithkeeper, Onondaga Nation).
The decisions we make now are not just about developing a vaccine, or determining when we can “get back to normal.” Broader, global directions are needed to weave ourselves back into the complex web of Nature, and how we relate to and utilize the Earth’s precious life-giving, life-sustaining yet depleting resources.
It is not just about flattening the Covid 19 infection rate curve, but also of flattening the economic curve so the gap between those who can survive pandemics and extreme weather changes is no longer based on wealth or power.
Up to the Challenge?
“WE HAVE known for some time that 2020 was going to be a milestone year for the climate change crisis, requiring a radical reversal of the current trajectory in global greenhouse gas emissions. But what we didn’t know was that we would also face a global health crisis this year. The decisions we make now to tackle this imminent threat will affect us for generations to come, including our ability to halt global warming.” (Christiana Figueres, Tom Rivett-Carnac, New Scientist Daily E-newsletter, April 1, 2020).
So what can we, as Newaygo County citizens, do to help create change to prevent more overwhelming disasters such as those that are affecting our lives right now and into the future?
We can always start right where we are: at home and in our communities.
“We are in this together” can mean caring for ourselves and our families in a more sustainable and environmentally healthy way. For instance buy local foods, support our local farmers, eat less but humanely raised meat. Drive less, walk outside more, connect with nature for mental and spiritual health. Grow native shrubs, flowers and grasses instead of lawns and invasives to support the pollinators that fertilize our food plants. Reduce what we use, Reuse what we have, Recycle what we don’t need.
We can begin to think about and make decisions based on how we, as individuals and as part of our human and non-human families, will either help damage or help nurture Nature.
We can use this Earth Day anniversary to get informed and take action (click HERE get links for Earth Day webinars and livestreams to view this week – and sign up for 3R-CEWAC Enews!).
We can assure that our leaders and representatives vote for policies that support the long term health of our environment instead of those for short sighted gains. We can vote for leaders who have broad visions for a healthy and sustainable future for all, and who will bring marginalized communities to the economic and environmental justice table.
We are Nature. Let's live as Nature, and hold ourselves and our leaders to this beautiful and sustainable way of being in this world.
3R Environmental Education (and its workgroup Citizens Environmental Watch and Action Coalition) is a non-profit organization whose mission is to “promote the environmental health and sustainability of Newaygo County through Information, Education and Advocacy.” Contact Sally Wagoner: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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