Earth Day 2020: What the pandemic can teach us

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Joe, myself and our cats are together at home these days, like most people are, under a “shelter in place” order, waiting for the number of new Coronavirus cases to subside and for widespread testing to be put into place.  

Since today is Earth Day (and this will surely be the most unusual Earth Day of the past 50) I thought I would dedicate a post to the pandemic.  

Already, COVID-19 has exacted a terrible toll. Some people have become ill, some have lost loved ones or jobs, and nearly everyone is living with uncertainty. And yet, the lockdown that is a result of the pandemic has a few silver linings.  One is that animals around the world have begun to frolick in places humans have evicted them from. Another is that polluted skies and waters have begun to clear in some places. These miraculous signs give me hope the earth and species can recover, if we can learn to live differently. 

Another advantage the pandemic has brought us is time.  Time to reflect on the world, to rethink old habits and decide how we want to resume living our lives once the lockdown ends. 

Since the pandemic has already forced us to rethink so much of our daily routine, this Earth day, let’s consider incorporating some of these changes into lasting habits, for the sake of our environment and own well being.

For example, Zoom and other teleconferencing apps are being widely used to keep in touch with coworkers and family, because they facilitate contact with others while safely social distancing.  Why should we continue this habit after the lockdown?  Because by meeting virtually, this avoids the carbon emissions that otherwise would’ve been created by burning fossil fuels during the course of automobile and air travel.

Shopping less often- to reduce the spread of Coronavirus.Shopping less often- to reduce our carbon footprint (less driving).
Buying in bulk- to stock our pantry and prevent a potential shortfall.Buying in bulk- to reduce the amount of food packaging we throw away (and save money).
Buying available produce- adapting our recipes to fit what is available during the pandemic. Buying local and seasonal produce- adapting our recipes to help local farmers, reduce our carbon footprint (due to long distance food transport) and to promote better health.
Bringing your mask to the store to prevent Coronavirus spread.Bringing your mask and your reusable shopping bags to the store to reduce plastic waste.
Cooking more often due to the closure of restaurants and bars.Cooking more often because it is healthier and connects us to where our food comes from.
Growing our own food because of fears of food shortages due to the pandemic.Growing our own food because it is healthier and releases less carbon into the atmosphere (by avoiding use of commercial fertilizers and long distance food transport).
Carrying hand sanitizer and mask to prevent Coronavirus spread.Carrying hand sanitizer, mask, and reusable utensils to reduce plastic waste.
Switching to cloth napkins because paper towels and scare.Switching to cloth napkins to save trees and reduce waste.
Working from home to prevent Coronavirus spread.Working from home to reduce carbon emissions (caused by driving car to and from work)
Reframing pandemic behaviors during lockdown, into environmentally-friendly behaviors.

This is a just quick list of ways life has changed and how we can chart a greener course, immediately after lockdown. I’m sure there are many other behaviors, not listed, that should be continued, like helping your neighbors or playing games with kids because it promotes healthier children and communities.

Perhaps we need a public campaign to link these concepts (transitioning pandemic behavior into sustainability) to promote societal change- something akin to Flattening the Climate Curve ?