Earth Day 2020, A Reminder ...

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April 22, was Earth day. This year the day went without much exhibition as Covid-19 overshadowed all other endeavors. With each passing day is becoming increasingly clear that taking care of Environment can be helpful in containing the spread of virulent pests and pathogens. Year 2020 marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day and, also a reminder that the environment is integral to our health, and nature cannot be taken for granted.

Some of the environmental organizations, schools, colleges, environmental clubs, and Ministries of Government of India have live streaming sessions on various themes to spread awareness on global environmental issues. Schools and colleges organized poster and slogan writing competitions. University and College environmental societies put up message boards explaining the importance of the day. However, the fact remains, that does this all work on ground. Does it do any good to the environment? Do we really practice a lifestyle that is environment friendly? Marking the 50th anniversary of the Earth Day on 22 April 2020 have we really achieved much on environmental front? Covid-19 has prompted us all to use digital platforms to spread the awareness which otherwise would see conferences, seminars, gatherings, and events attended by politicians and celebrities who otherwise do not care much about environmental issues. This year we have saved lakhs of rupees from government exchequer, unnecessary wastage of paper used for publicizing the event, and a lot of manual labour. We saved on honorariums and transport allowances that government servants and public offices get reimbursed for when attending meetings and gatherings. We saved on the fuel, we improved environmental conditions because there was no carbon emission from the transport. The best thing that happened is that the entire world used the digital landscape with soft and important conversations that lead the way forward to tackle the environmental problems without too much of preaching and sloganeering. Some positive acts, dance, and art performances closed doors by eminent people, webinars and events supporting urgent action on tackling environmental issues marked the day.

The 2020 Earth day has brought into light that environmental protection is a fundamental foundation of building better times after we get over the Pandemic. Considering the present crisis, we have to remind ourselves daily, that for protecting ourselves against future global threats, the knowledge and practices of sound management of environmental problems is of utmost importance. Strong and global stewardship of nature and biodiversity can play a pivotal role in changing the world for a better future and help combat the adverse impacts of natural and anthropogenic calamities. The past one month of the lockdown also saw a sea-change in how many offices, government, public and private can operate without being a burden on environment and natural resources. April 22 was also a timely reminder for job providers to go green in their operations. Work from Home that environmentalists had been advocating for years is going to be a new norm. A rough estimate of the environmental benefits of embracing this new culture clearly indicates that they are huge and surpass many other measures that companies have been taking until now. The carbon footprint of travel, the maintenance of office space, electricity, energy costs, waste generation and its disposal if calculated roughly will be highly reduced. This will have far more implications on the quality of air that has improved globally, the sky looks blue and earth is looks greener than ever. The quality of water in the rivers has improved, the carbon emission and dust pollution has reduced, biodiversity is taking a new breath and birds are seen in flocks. The pandemic lockdown during 2020 Earth Day anniversary is a stark reminder to all of us that the consumeristic society, sooner or later has to pay a price for toying too much with what nature has provided us with. Last 40 days have taught us, that we must go back to basics: roti, kapda and makaan is what one needs. We have understood that accumulating gizmos, luxuries, fancy cars and modern facilities doesn’t have much relevance. Survival is the key and nature provides enough for meeting the day-to-day needs of living being. COVID crisis will be soon over, we all know that and we may even forget it after some time. But don’t get over with this feeling that Earth Day was conceived with a purpose and United Nations Environment Programme wants the entire world to understand that Environment should be a top priority and the way we are united to fight the Corona Virus, we need to get united to save the environment. Pledge to save the environment and we shall get back to normal. Wishes that made Earth day special in the words of Edna Frohock

Summer, fall, winter, spring

The seasons rotate as each brings

Its special beauty to this earth of ours

Winter’s snows and summer’s flowers

Frozen rivers will flow come spring

There is a renewal of everything

Dr Monika Koul is Assistant Professor, Department of Botany, Hans Raj College, University of Delhi