I spent a lot of time over the past two weeks on Earth Day events – most of it virtual. It was so different than any of the previous ones that I had been involved with. There was a lot of online activity, a great amount of learning, and a lot of strategizing for what needs to be done this year while fighting the corona virus. I hope it all proves to be as effective as the first Earth Day 50 years ago.
In looking at these two events, I realized that there are many cultural differences between 1970 and now, and between the youth of the seventies and the youth today. I thought it might be interesting to create a short list that might get you thinking on how our culture is so different today and what that might mean for meeting the challenges ahead.
The First Earth Day occurred in a very different environment. Sure there are a lot of similarities between 1970 and 2020, such as political and economic turmoil across the country and colleges shutting down. I remember being quite concerned for the future of our country at that time as I am today. But let’s stop for a moment and consider how different life was back then relative to today.
Our everyday behaviors in 1970
- we wrote letters (in cursive), it cost money to send them, and they took 3-5 days to arrive
- long distance phone calls were the exception since they cost so much
- we typed school papers on a manual typewriter with a real carbon copy
- I had never flown on an airplane or taken a train until my twenties
- I had no need for a car living on a college campus
- I had only a handful of friends and none of them were “online friends”
- I used a Slide Rule – there were no individual computers
- I had to resort to an encyclopedia to find answers I could trust
- shopping required a trip to lots of little specialty stores – but less packaging and shipping
- We grew and canned a lot of our food
- I never had a carry-out dinner except for steamed crabs
- our news came from a limited number of sources – TV, radio, a daily newspaper, and weekly magazines
- being drafted for an controversial war was a real issue for many young men
Our environmental impacts in 1970
- no curbside recycling in my area except for milk bottles – stores would pay for glass beer or soda bottle returns
- we burned trash in our backyard – there was no trash pickup
- we got rid of waste oil and extra pesticides by dumping them in the ground
- we repaired most items when they broke
- we planted natural fences of multi-flora rose – a big mistake
- we rotated crops, planted cover crops, and built our own bio-retention facilities
- people smoked everywhere: restaurants, in cars, on planes, and at conferences, etc.
- we did not have AC in our homes, or cars, or my dorm – we opened windows
- we rarely did long trips
- we planted 30,000 trees and cut our own wood to heat our house
You may have a different list, but the point here is that along with technology and consumption, people and their behaviors have also changed. In Saving the Places We Love, I discuss how our American culture has changed continuously over the past 150 years. It’s a fascinating story. There is hope.
So take a look at your life right now and picture what you can do to help change our behaviors and our culture going forward. We need to change our culture to one that is more protective of our environment and the health of future generations. Maybe you could become a climate champion. We all need to act locally and globally. I hope some of these blogs will help you find opportunities where you can contribute in a meaningful way. I wish you the best.
Like most of you, I’ve been trying to get my hands around how humans should respond to a crisis and what roles each of us plays in the process both as individuals and collectively. Since the beginning of the Covid-19 affair, I have asked my partner and my friends almost on a daily basis, “What should we be doing?” To answer that question, we have used a mix of information, risk assessment strategies, and experience from past stressful situations.
My first action has been to find sources I can trust. In this case doctors and nurses who understand infectious diseases and national experts from Hopkins, Harvard, CDC, etc. I have also referred to economic and business professionals (Morgan Stanley, Bloomberg and Forbes) and my own business networks for assessing a broad range of factors on how and when businesses should open again. These sources have relied heavily on lessons learned from previous pandemics and from other countries who are ahead of us and who have been more successful in dealing with the spread of the coronavirus.
I have also looked back at other tumultuous periods of time to gain some perspective of how we came through previous desperate situations in my lifetime: Polio, Flu pandemics in the 1950s , oil embargoes and the social disruption of the 1970s, and more recently HIV/AIDS, Ebola, and the changing climate impacts. These were/are all quite scary events.
I have tried to filter out blatant ideological or political messages. Fortunately, there are political leaders from both parties on the state level (governors of MD, NY, OH, and CA) who share the data and the range of possible strategies and outcomes with the public so we all can see the impacts of different approaches. Once hearing of the risks of other approaches, e.g., going back to work too soon or too late, their strategies of relying on the data for each state make sense to me. It will be a challenge to get it right in all cases. The bottom line is that we all want to get the economy to rebound, but we sure done want to make it worse – the risks are too great.
There are lots of different perspectives for assessing when to go back to work and this is true in all decisions that will affect a wide number of people. I tried to explore the reality of dealing with different perspectives in The Big Melt, a climate novel set in Anytown, USA. In this book I created a typical small town in the US and populated it with a variety of people with a broad range of perspectives. A series of climate catastrophes hits the town and the reader watches as these disparate characters struggle with what to do. Everyone, of course, has their own opinion.
The protagonists, Marley and Brianne, have just graduated from high school and are looking forward to getting on with their lives. Then all hell breaks loose. They struggle with what they can do to save their town. They seek out mentors to discuss the options and then end up in a town meeting, debating what the local government should or should not do. The debate shows how messy the democratic process can be and reveals the challenges of getting community-wide buy in.
During their struggle to save their town, the teen-aged protagonists discover opportunities to help their neighbors and they organize to be more effective – much like we are doing today by helping each other with essential groceries, medicines, etc. As they learn how to help their community, they become role models showing us what can be done by individuals when governments don’t step up to the plate in time.
During the current pandemic, I have been thinking of the characters in this book, especially when I hear how some people are not following the recommendations of our leading experts: staying at least 6 ft apart, wearing masks, and staying home. I don’t get this response and yet the opinions of the more reactionary characters in the book are understandable in the context of their experiences. Their perspectives seem real in the story because they are shaped by their past history with neighbors and local governments.
So I try to accept different perspectives. But our country is asking us to go through a lot of pain right now to flatten the curve for the greater good. Shouldn’t we all be helping support that strategy? It’s success is dependent on all of us doing our part and it would be much more effective if we did. I have chosen to be more like Marley and Brianne and seek ways to work with others to solve this crisis in as scientific and logical a way as possible. I guess I do this because I feel deeply vested in my community. I know people who are compromised and who are at great risk. Like the protagonists in the book, I am part of my community and want to do whatever I can to protect as much of it as possible. So I wear my mask and I keep more than 6 feet apart and I stay at home and I try to support local businesses and people living from paycheck to paycheck.
I hope we come out of this pandemic with the realization that we are all better off working together. And I hope that the lessons we are learning right now will help us bring back a more sustainable economy – one that will help us be better prepared for managing future pandemics as well as the looming climate crisis. The best way to deal with a crisis is to prevent it whenever possible. When that is not possible, the next best strategy is to be prepared for it.
April 26, 2020 – Off on my morning walk today, I was just crossing the power line right-a-way when I saw a flash 30 yards in front of me. A large animal flew across the road effortlessly, as if in a single leap. It was much larger than a fox and had dark patches on its otherwise tan and gray fur. It looked like a cross between a fox and a German Shepard, but was clearly neither. It’s size, coloring and motion all fit the description of an Eastern Coyote – a genetic mix between a more traditional coyote and a wolf.
My fellow early morning forager disappeared, as quickly as it appeared, into the overgrown meadow of brown and green grasses and wineberry bushes. I found its path through the tall wet grasses and pondered whether I should try to track this beautiful creature. I chose not to harass it. As much as I loved seeing a coyote up close, there was no need to get any closer. I like to leave the meadows, forest hubs, and green stream corridors to all the creatures that need this rare wildlife habitat here in the middle of suburbia to thrive.
I’ve had encounters with coyotes in the west – but this was different. My first exposure to Eastern coyotes was in 1972 on Flagstaff Lake, an isolated lake in Maine. At that time the lake was only accessible via rudimentary forest service roads. Tom and I were mapping the geology of the area and we had brought our partners out for a weekend wilderness camping trip. We were the only ones there, canoeing and portaging for several hours to get to what we later called Blueberry Island. That night the loons and the coyotes serenaded us with their calls echoing off a vertical rock ledge on shore. It was romantic and eerie at the same time. We were immersed in nature and felt close to the stars and all the creatures on Earth.
In 2006 Kathy and I had a little farm in Howard County. One spring we lost two sheep to a local pack of coyotes. They struck at dawn, taking down 100 pound ewes. Our neighbors had similar problems with their farm animals. We lost a cat to the coyotes as well when one morning all we found left of her was blood on the front porch steps. I’ve heard other stories of missing cats and dogs, who were left off leash and disappeared. Coyotes may also help keep down the deer population which has gotten out of hand without a top predator.
A few years back we downsized and moved to live within Columbia. I started my morning walks to try to keep in touch with nature and to seek out a little bit of local wilderness. One morning when I was up before dawn, there was a full moon, making the landscape beautiful and magical at the same time. As I walked across the right-of-way I heard coyotes calling. I had not heard them sing here in Maryland before, and it took me back to the camping trip many years ago. I love that even in suburbia, coyotes can live here too, so close to all of us, without many of us ever realizing it. It’s a balance we need to maintain with nature – we need our natural support systems to be healthy to fight all the challenges we may face in the future.
I had been asked to speak at the Gunpowder Conservancy’s Earth Day Event at the Oregon Ridge Nature Center outside of Baltimore, MD. When the onsite event was cancelled due to the States’s Stay-at-home recommendation, they asked for a short video to post on their virtual Earth Day site along with other content their followers might like to read. I sent them one. In the process of preparing those remarks, I reviewed my own experience back on the first Earth Day in 1970. I thought I would share some of my recollections with you here.
You might wonder why I think this is relevant today with most of our focus on Covid-19, dealing with closed schools, and trying to earn a paycheck. Well there are many parallels between the environmental/climate change challenges and this pandemic, and I believe a little historic perspective can be helpful.
Our country was also in turmoil in 1970. We had gone through several years of political assassinations, a crooked President, the cities were on fire, and anti-war protests were widespread. A few weeks after the first Earth Day, 4 students were shot dead on Kent State University in Ohio. We all went crazy in disbelief that this could happen in the US. Colleges all across America were shut down, students sent home and classes cancelled. Does that sound familiar?
The other parallel is that diseases like this coronavirus may be directly related with degradation of the environment, loss of habitat, increased density of humans smothering out other life forms, and the lost of biodiversity and gene pools. That’s right, diseases like Covid-19 are the direct result of humans trashing our environment – which is the primary reason Earth Day was created in the first place and why it is as important today as ever before.
I remember Earth Day 1970. I was a junior in college studying earth and environmental processes. It was a milestone in my life – an opportunity to see many of the interconnections between history, science, politics, business, and health. As a result of that first teach-in, I dedicated my life to trying to keep mankind in balance with our natural support systems.
April 22, 1970 is considered the birth of the modern environmental movement. Earlier movements occurred in the 1800s and early 1900s when Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, John Wesley Powell, John Muir all lobbied for a greater focus on nature (see Saving The Places We Love for more detail). They moved the national consciousness from one which was totally exploitative to one that dealt with the preservation of some of the great wonders of America and the conservation of our valuable natural resources.
Their efforts led to the preserving of 100s of millions of acres by Teddy Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchott. Later FDR through the CCC planted 3 billion trees on lands that had been stripped bare by loggers, ranchers, and fires sparked by trains. These ancestors left a beautiful legacy for us and all future generations – assuming we take up the mantle and continue the efforts to preserve what is best of America.
In 1970, Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson got April 22 dedicated as Earth Day – a day for a national teach-in to educate all of us to the damages we were causing to our environment and to our health. He had been motivated by seeing the ravages of the massive Santa Barbara Oil spill the previous year. He realized that if he could infuse the energy of the anti-war protest with the emerging public awareness about water and air pollution, it could force environmental protection onto the national agenda.
Earth Day celebrations and teach-ins occurred on 2000 college campuses, 10,000 secondary schools, and thousands of communities across the country. It is estimated that 20 million people participated in non-violent demonstrations and teach-ins.
I remember participating on my college campus (Franklin and Marshall College). It was a beautiful day with music and banners. We had local speakers and booths. It was fun but also very visceral to look at pictures of the mess we were causing to our streams, forests, oceans, soils, and communities. I came away thinking that it was up to our generation to save the Earth.
Fortunately, the movement was supported by both Republicans and Democrats, by young and old. That teach-in led to the creation of the EPA and passage of Clean Air, Clean Water, and the Endangered Species Acts. The steps lead to the legal framework that has allowed us to accomplish a great deal over the past 50 years.
It was a great start. We have cleaned up a lot of the country, and changed many personal and corporate behaviors. But the population, unfortunately, has doubled over my life time and we all use a lot more energy and consume much more today than we ever did back then. All the gains we have made are threatened by our wasteful behaviors and our near total dependence on fossil fuel and plastics. As a result our way of life is threatened and our climate is changing. We have to find a way back from the brink of more pandemics, fires, droughts, and storms.
So we need to:
- rekindle our efforts to live in balance with what remains of our natural support systems
- create a multi-generational, multi-ethnic and bipartisan strategy for a healthy and sustainable future.
So on this coming Wednesday, April 22, the 50th Anniversary of the First Earth Day, I invite you to get engaged at a local, national, and global level. You can do this by supporting and participating with your local nature centers, climate action groups, land conservancies, governments, churches, and environmental groups. On a national scale there are many groups to support, but be sure to check in with http://www.earthday.org or earthdaylive2020.org to learn more about this year’s actions, such as:
- Great Global Clean-up
- Planting of 7.8 billion trees (1 for each person on the planet)
- Advocacy at all levels
- Global Teach-Ins – to increase climate literacy – join the 3-day live stream at http://www.earthdaylive2020.org
- Wider participation of all people with all our talents
Now take a moment to think about what we are learning from our response to the current global challenge – Covid-19. What have you learned that will help us be more effective when dealing with the climate crisis. Just remember we don’t want to go backwards. We want to act now to make sure we can go forward to a healthier and more sustainable future. But we have to act now, find our focus, and spend the stimulus monies in constructive ways for a new economy. Join what we think will be 1 billion people on Earth Day 50 and let’s get moving forward, together.
I’ve had the pleasure this past fall, winter, and now spring of working as a mentor with Sophia D’Alonzo, a graduating senior here in Howard County, on her Internship Project. We have been brainstorming and implementing a series of marketing activities since this is her focus for college. In listening to her, I thought it might be interesting for you to hear how she is viewing the chaos in the world from her perspective of being “On Pause” during her last few months of her senior year. The coronavirus clearly has the potential to really complicate her work and academic plans.
Ned – What are your plans for the Fall?
Sophia – I plan to attend University of Maryland in the fall. I’ll be living on-campus in the CIVICUS program, which is centered around community service and civic engagement. My major is Communications, which I hope to pair with a minor in Marketing.
Ned – That sounds pretty exciting. What are you doing during this “pause” in your senior year while we are waiting for the coronavirus to flow through our society?
Sophia – While my school system is working to implement a distance learning program, I have mostly been relaxing at home and talking to friends. I’ve taken the opportunity to get caught up on Netflix shows and movies that I’ve been too busy to watch. My friends and I have been keeping in touch by using Facetime, playing multiplayer games together, and using Netflix Party, which is an extension that allows us to have movie nights while watching on our separate devices.
Ned – Well, I’m glad that you have been keeping up with the goals of your internship program through our Zoom meetings each week. I also sense that you, like all of us, are concerned about family and friends. How do you feel about what is going on, with the dual threats of coronavirus and global warming?
Sophia – In both cases, it’s extremely frustrating to watch others not take the issue seriously. In the case of the virus, I have been staying home and social distancing. However, I see many people on the news and social media that are downplaying the issue and not doing their part to flatten the curve. With global warming, despite years of scientific studies and data, there are still a number of people who either don’t believe in the crisis or disregard it. While it can be disheartening at times, I feel motivated to continue spreading information in the hopes that I can bring more light to the issue.
Ned – Are your peers taking either of these threats seriously? What are they most concerned about right now?
Sophia – Most of my friends and their families have been staying home and limiting contact with other people to reduce potential exposure to the virus. With climate change, I’ve noticed that nearly everyone takes it seriously, but not enough that they are advocating publicly. Right now, everyone’s attention is focused on the coronavirus and its current and future impacts.
Ned – I remember my teenage years when we were scared about the Cuban missile crisis, a crooked president, political assassinations, and the Vietnam War. I think those events changed our generations in different ways – some for the better and some for the worse. How do you think the dual crises are affecting you and your generation?
Sophia – It’s difficult to predict how exactly this will change the way we live in the future. I’ve found it easier to approach things on a day by day mindset and focus on what personal tasks I have because it’s easy to become overwhelmed when thinking about the pandemic. I hope our situation now brings light to necessary change, especially in the United States healthcare system. There are many shortcomings in our healthcare that have been highlighted by inadequate response to the virus. Additionally, I anticipate that there will be more of a global focus on sanitation and public health. What I’ve noticed most, however, is how much technology is able to connect us. While it isn’t ideal, I’ve been able to connect with friends and family from miles away using texting, video chat, social media, and multiplayer games. This technology is something I’ve taken for granted, but I have found a new appreciation for it. I predict that there will be more innovation in tech that is designed to bring people together in these situations.
Ned – What will you do if UMCP does not open in the fall, or if all instruction is online?
Sophia – I guess I’ll have to take my classes online. It would be disappointing because I’ve been looking forward to living on campus for a long time, but we’ll have to adapt.
Ned – I know things are very uncertain right now, but I understand HCPSS will be offering online instruction beginning April 24. But after that, do you have plans for the summer?
Sophia – I hope to be able to see my friends and spend time with family. I have a trip planned to Deep Creek lake with friends at the end of June. Things are up in the air right now, but we’ve been looking forward to it for months and now we’re really hoping we’ll be able to go. Of course, I’ll (hopefully) be planning for college move-in and getting everything ready for my first semester.
Ned – Well thank you for the comments Sophia – it’s a lot to process. I realize that these are the types of challenges that would be helpful to discuss with others. I hope you are able to maintain your relationship with your friends via technology. I enjoyed working with you this year and I wish you the best in the future.
I lead quite a few walks through the woods. I do this for a wide range of purposes – but mostly to engage more people in the love and care of the natural environment. I have realized over the years that there is a meditative aspect to walks that can be of value to people going through challenging times. I thought I would share with you a few suggestions for centering yourself while walking alone in the woods.
The suggestions below come from a collaboration with John Caughey, Professor Emeritus of Anthropology and American Studies at the University of Maryland. He, too, is an avid walker and, as a student of Sufism and Taoism, has had a meditative practice for decades. We have enjoyed walking in the woods and meditating together as well as creating these suggestions for you. We wish you the best in your walking and meditation.
WALKING AND MEDITATION SUGGESTIONS – John Caughey and Ned Tillman
INTRODUCTION: We know that sitting in meditation in the morning helps with whatever we do later including taking a walk. But directly bringing meditation into our walking enhances the experience.
- Meditate First: Instead of just setting out on a walk, do a short sitting or standing meditation at home or at the trailhead before starting out. This provides a transition, helps clear our minds of thoughts and concerns, so we can experience the walk more deeply. Pick a path less frequented by others.
- Pause and Center: At a good spot near the beginning of the walk, pause, close your eyes, breathe, and tune into the gestalt of the day seeing and registering all of nature. Feel the sun and wind on your face, breathe in all the essential vapors from the trees and plants that surround you.
- Set Walking Pace: Instead of hurrying or looking at the path, try walking at a leisurely pace. Look around, near and far, continuing to open all senses to oneness with nature. Try walking in inner silence, for a few minutes or for ten meditative breaths.
WHEN APPROPRIATE TRY ONE OR MORE OF THE FOLLOWING:
- Meditation and Seeing: When something catches your eye, don’t just glance and walk on, stop, close your eyes, take a meditative breath. Then open your eyes and try to see the bird, or tree without thought, try – in Zen terms – to see its mysterious “suchnesss’ and to sense your oneness with it, then let associations that arise flow up…
- Meditation and Listening: Identify the background hum of car or air traffic, then set it aside, close your eyes and listen to all the sounds of nature. After ascending a hill, close your eyes and listen to the blood course through the veins in your ears. Listen to it subside.
- Meditation and Smelling: Close your eyes, center, and smell whatever is in bloom, a twig from a Spice Bush, the animals and trees around you, smell the living soil being transformed under your feet.
- Meditation and the Landscape: Notice the shape of land forms all around you, feel the flow of the watershed, how it runs, how it has shaped this area, how it has changed over the millennia.
- Meditation and History: If you come upon the ruins of houses, mills, dams, abandoned roads, piles of rock, fence lines, gardens, Native American names or artifacts, center and reflect on those who have been here before, your ancestors, and the gifts and lessons they have left for you.
- Meditation and Reflection: As you return towards home, after a period of walking in meditative silence and natural world connection – while still walking at a leisurely pace – it can be productive to center and gently concentrate on issues of current concern. This can enhance good thinking and intuition such as insight into current projects (like a writing project) and it can also help in the processing of difficult emotions including anxiety and grief in these strange times.
- Bringing it all Home: Consider what you can bring back from this walk: a refreshed, and perhaps even healed state of mind, good memories to return to later, insights about your projects, questions about the natural world we might explore in books or online, thoughts about how to save and take care of the places you walk, perhaps the basis of a poem or a story, something you may have learned about meditation and walking – and also the trash we pick up.
Last week while sauntering (Thoreau style) along a reforested part of Howard County, my eye was attracted to a very small tan blob attached to a small branch of a tree. It took me a few moments to realize this stiff, foamy mass was an egg sac. In fact is was a praying mantis egg sac and could contain up to 300 eggs. I tried to remember when they are created and when do they hatch. I wasn’t sure. I placed the sac in my jacket pocket planning on giving it to my grandchildren later that day (pre-lockdown). Might be fun I thought.
Sure enough we all took a walk later in the day and at one point I put my hand into my pocket and remembered my plan. The 5 year old certainly knew what a mantis was from last summer – but was fuzzy about how the two related. But she was excited and promised to take it home and watch it hatch – assuming it was still viable. Several days later my daughter say the sac and put it into a pint jar with a fine mesh lid.
The very next morning everything changed. The jar was full of mini mantises. She had put it in a jar just in the nick of time, they were streaming out of the egg sac, and just kept coming. I quickly got a call and via FaceTime got to enjoy the excitement. “What do they eat grandpa? We’ve got to feed them now.” We guessed that we needed to capture some of the bugs that were starting to swarm on the porch. It quickly turned into a neighborhood quest – plenty of babies to go around even with turning dozens lose for keeping the gardens free of more harmful pests throughout the summer.
Turned out this was a blessing for all the neighbors – a little excitement during a period of corona lockdown. Great opportunity for community and solo research without leaving one’s own backyard.
January 4, 2020
Yes, we were some of the few people out and about today looking for signs of life in mid-winter. We saw squirrels, we heard red-shouldered hawks and kingfishers, and we found all sorts of bright pistachio green mosses among the leaves covering the brown and gray forest floor.
We also planted acorns, shouted through a long culvert, and examined a freshly built beaver lodge. It is amazing how much mud beavers move to pack in the spaces between all the branches they cut, dragged, and piled up along side of the lake. There is always much to see on a walk through the woods if one is not distracted by stuff happening in the greater world.
March 28, 2020
What a lifetime has transpired since my last entry. Not the least of which is Covid-19, a species-jumping virus probably resulting from loss of habitat and overcrowding on a finite Earth. My life has turned upside down and I have struggled, trying to keep being purposeful in all that I do. I still try to inspire people to act on slowing down the warming of our climate, but most people I encounter are really numb from all the virus data and opinions that they see. They struggle to find sources that will tell them the truth about the pandemic. This is another crisis, much like the climate crisis, where we really want to know the scientific facts and how to adjust our individual behaviors to improve the outcome.
But at the same time, I need to keep centered, productive, and healthy, and that means I crave my daily walk outdoors for my mental, physical, and biological health.
As I wander in nature, I see that there are still a lot of grays and browns in the forest. The beeches spread throughout the woods still wear their light tan, markescent leaves – the last vestiges of winter. The meadows wave their russet grasses in the light breeze, and the kingfisher calls as it darts along the edges of the lake. Yet now that the season has changed there are many incipient stages of spring everywhere I look. Snowdrops and crocus flowers have given way to pink spring beauties, Virginia bluebells, white bloodroot, and yellow woodland poppies. The understory shrubs are trying to get the jump on the taller canopy species. Yellow spicebush, redbud, and white shadblow are all sprouting their flowers, and even the maples are flowering and the poplars are leafing out. Solitary bees are churning up the soil, and small brown snakes and snapping turtles are lying in wait, looking for a chance to wriggle across the path.
Yes, the seasons change and the challenges persist, but so do the plants and animals. It does my heart good to see these changes, and I am so glad not to miss out on them by being distracted with all the worries people share. My hope for you is that you can find a place in nature and take the time to attune yourself once again with the rest of life on the planet. Maybe then we can each rededicate ourselves to change our behaviors and to take the steps needed to fight the virus and preserve our climate.
This coronavirus crisis represents a critical time in the evolution of our society, or at least changes in our behaviors and our culture. We need to change in many ways to continue living in balance with the planet and this challenge provides us with a great opportunity to do just that. However, we could also slide in the wrong way. Please join me in identifying both the good and the bad that could happen over the next year to 18 months.
- We might realize that we are all in this together and pull together to combat this virus. We could then apply that realization to other critical challenges, e.g., climate change, other pandemics, income inequality, racial inequality, and gender inequality.
- On the other side of the coin, we might not learn how to work together and our democracy might fail.
- We might realize that commuting to an office is expensive, inefficient, and dangerous to our health and to the planet. We all might switch to working from our homes, saving us time, costs, and energy. As a result, we would dramatically reduce our dependency on and misuse of fossil fuels. Our greenhouse gas emissions would drop, and the related health impacts and premature deaths would decrease as well.
- We might all make the switch to having our groceries delivered to our homes – a big time and cost saving step. Just think of how much more time you will have if you didn’t have to commute or shop.
- We might find different ways to educate ourselves and break down the barriers and costs to online learning.
- We might find a way through the cumbersome medical arena that works for all the people.
- We might all learn how to take care of each other (especially single people and the elderly), learn how to check in more often, and use video-conferencing for all sorts of things.
- We might have fallen in love with the great outdoors by the end of this crisis, and we might all be heathier and have adopted heathier outdoor activities as a result of this period of time.
- The international community, and especially the public health systems, should be stronger and better interconnected as a result of this experience and hopefully will be able to respond and work much better together on a full range of challenges that are global in nature.
This is just a start. So after you have taken all the actions you can do to slow the spread of the virus please send me your ideas of how things might change. Send to email@example.com. We have to make the most of a bad situation. So let’s think of where we want to be 6 months or 18 months from now and make sure our actions help us get there.
Ned Tillman is a climate and health advocate, a blogger, and an award-winning author. His latest book, The Big Melt, describes how a community can come together to help everyone fight a threat to their community.
Both the current pandemic and on-going global warming threaten hundreds of thousands if not millions of people all around the world. Numbers so large that we tend to get immobilized and numb to the statistics that change everyday. But there is a lot we can do and need to be doing everyday to fight both of these tragedies.
Trying to get some perspective on these challenges, I have noticed that there are many parallels between these two crises. One appears to be more urgent in the short term (months), and the other more significant in the longer term (years), but both require immediate responses right now- in developing and implementing a plan of attack. So what can we learn from each of these crises to help us fight both of these global challenges at the same time?
- Our federal government dismissed both crises initially.
- They came late to the novel coronavirus crisis, putting many people at risk. They are still ignoring the climate crisis and are pursuing strategies that will make it worse – putting many more people at risk.
- The federal government is struggling to figure out what strategies to pursue against the pandemic. They are still delaying action for fighting global warming except for a promise to plant trees.
- Both crises require real leadership at the local, state, federal, and global levels and extensive professional cooperation and collaboration between all countries is critical.
- Both crises require significant actions by each and every one of us. Many of us are taking both of these crises seriously and taking steps that will help. Some of us don’t think either crisis is real.
- Both crises offer us the opportunity to reinvent ourselves and create a more successful future – one more in balance with the realities of the limits on our natural resources and our impacts on the Earth.
- The solutions to these crises are complicated and will require the best science and scientists to solve.
- They both will require us all to take action.
- The sooner we act, the lesser the damage and the greater the chance that we can recover.
As we continue to learn more about the pandemic, let’s keep in mind lessons learned from fighting both crises. Let’s put solutions into effect that will benefit both fights. In any stimulus package, let’s incentivize the practices (working from home, less travel, etc) and the businesses (clean energy, flexible manufacturing) which we need to solve both crises. Let’s act as effectively and timely as we can. This is the time to shift our society to a more sustainable one. These are big problems that will affect the entire human race. It’s time for us all to come together to solve them both.