April 19, 2020

Mercy Global Action Celebrates the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day

On April 22nd, we celebrate  Earth Day’s 50th Anniversary with the theme “Climate Action” amid the  complex reality of a global pandemic. Our global efforts in social distancing have reduced emissions leading to reports of clearer air, cleaner water, and a healing ozone. While these observations show that we can turn the tide and prevent catastrophic climate change the lesson comes at the high price of human life, isolation, and increased hazardous medical waste.  A global ‘war-time’ response is necessary to protect humanity from COVID-19, and any ‘war-time’ effort must include recovery and rebuilding after the crisis. The question that remains is how we can build a healthier, greener future post-COVID-19.  There have been environmental benefits as a side effect of social distancing, but we must realize they are only as permanent as our life-style changes.  

Our planet has already warmed up by 1.1°C and the international goal is to limit that warming to 1.5°C, which would mitigate global warming’s impact (limiting extreme weather, desertification, ocean acidification, food insecurity, etc.).  At our current rate of pollution, we can expect the temperature to rise to 3.2°C, resulting in exponentially worse climate change for every fraction of a degree over 1.5°C. [1] The scientific community agrees that to meet our goal of 1.5°C the global community must quickly drop emissions to 25 gigatons (Gt) by 2030; however, current commitments in the Paris Agreement have steered us on a path towards emitting 56 Gts of carbon by 2030. [2]

We can only meet the necessary reductions in emissions through systemic change and broad lifestyle changes. Buying disposable items, plastics, inefficient cars and appliances, and transportation are all key areas to examine in each of our lives.  Additionally, we must advocate for the sweeping policy changes that will stop corporations from destroying our planet for profit. Mercy Global Action recognizes that we have an opportunity now as COVID-19 stimulus plans come into effect around the world. We must use the economic revitalization effort to build environmental protections into the ‘new normal’ that will emerge after the pandemic.  All efforts to recover economically and socially after COVID-19 must include “an ambitious, measurable and inclusive framework, because keeping nature rich, diverse and flourishing is part and parcel of our life’s support system.” [3] The health of earth intertwines with the health of humanity.  As the health of earth declines the probability of contracting zoonotic disease like Corona will continue to grow.[4]  We can no longer afford to miss any opportunities to protect the health and stability of earth.

We will not survive if earth dies at the hands of our own economic systems. We are intertwined with the ecosystem, and the intricacies of our human dependency on earth have become increasingly clear. As a result, there is an emerging legal movement recognizing “the inherent rights of Nature to exist, thrive and evolve.” [5] The legal framework moves from our modern ideas of property and dominion over the earth to the understanding that earth is a “rights-bearing partner with which humanity has co-evolved.” [6] Laws that recognize our fundamentally symbiotic relationship as necessary for both human and planet survival are emerging at the local and national levels.

With our voice and collective will, Mercy Global Action will continue to advocate for laws to protect the rights of earth and the human right to a safe environment.  Advocacy for earth and for our right to life on this planet rests with each one of us and what we say and the petitions we sign matter just as much as what we buy and how we choose to live our lives.  This Earth Day remember that “whatever you are not changing, you are choosing.” [7]  Make a choice for the future survival and health of humanity and earth today.

Celebrate International Mother Earth Day with our global community here: https://www.earthday.org/earth-day-live/

[1] Emissions Gap Report 2019: Global progress report on climate action. UN Environment Programme. 2019. https://www.unenvironment.org/interactive/emissions-gap-report/2019/

[2] Ibid

[3] Andersen, Inger. “First Person: COVID-19 is not a silver lining for the climate, says UN Environment chief.” UN News: Climate Change. 5 April, 2020. https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/04/1061082

[4] Ibid

[5] “Rights of Nature Law, Policy and Education.” United Nations: Harmony with Nature.  http://www.harmonywithnatureun.org/rightsOfNature/

[6] Ibid

[7] Buchanan PhD, Laurie. “Note to Self: A Seven-Step Path to Gratitude and Growth.”  She Writes Press. November 1, 2016.

Messages to: Amanda Carrier rsm - MGA intern

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