By Franck Brych
Earth Day is a movement that started in 1970 (50 years ago) to express the emerging public opinion of the state of the Earth to governments and world leaders. At that time, cars were very inefficient and consumed large amounts of gas (same goes when you drive a Ford F-150 from the early 2000’s), and car pollution was growing rapidly. Earth was started by a Wisconsinite senator who was ‘inspired’ by an oil spill in Santa Barbara in 1969. On April 22nd1970, 10% of the US population rallied for Earth Day. Ever since then Earth Day has gradually been a global day of awareness.
It is important for us, Catholics, to recognize Earth Day because we have the duty to care for our planet, for creation, and to make sure our children and grandchildren have a livable home. Let us not forget that we are all only tenants of Earth. As Pope Francis put in his encyclical, Laudato Si, we have to care for God’s creation in the same way we have to care for other people as Catholics. We are called to have a proactive approach about the environment, starting from within ourselves, to change the way we live, and the way we view our daily life.
As part of the Social Justice and Advocacy team at CCM, and as a Catholic team, we try to raise awareness about the disastrous effects of climate change, and encourage our community members to limit their impact. We also inform them of different options available to limit their impact, such as learning how to recycle, lower your water usage, and polluting less in general. It is our duty to be more ecological, earth conscious, and promote that to others, as this is also part of reducing the overall impact. A small drop water can make the glass overflow.
Earth Day should be great this year, as less people are out polluting with their cars and less fossil fuels are used as the economic activity slows down dramatically due to implications with COVID-19. Seriously though, this pandemic and everyone staying home is having extraordinary effects on the planet: the waters of Venice are clear, in LA you can see the sea from a few miles away, and China’s air pollution is lower than it has been in quite some time. This represents how human activity impacts the Earth every day, and how just a few weeks of ‘slowdown’ can help reverse the Earth a little closer to its natural state.
Social distancing is already helping the planet, but it is only a temporary solution to a reoccurring problem. During this period of social distancing, as we have more time on our hands, we can recycle more thoroughly, go through things that we do not use, reevaluate our possessions and reduce the amount of water we use daily by taking short showers, for example. We can also incorporate daily reflections on how we can reduce our impact, especially when things get back to normal (hopefully). This can slowly get us in a different mindset, and start the shift from within, that Pope Francis emphasized in Laudato Si, that will stay with us after this period is over.