CHENNAI: World Earth Day was celebrated around the globe on April 22. Usually, there is much fanfare around the day — marathons, city-wide tree planting, clean-up of beaches, rivers and lakes. All in honour of our home and planet. This year, however, we all stayed in our homes, except, sanitation workers who continued their daily duties and went about cleaning our streets and neighbourhoods.
According to the Earth Day Network — the organisation that leads this movement — 2020 has been declared as the year for “Climate Action”. The year 2019 was to “Protect our species”. With the pandemic striking, the policies restricting and banning wildlife trade will certainly be a step towards achieving this goal. “The global destruction of plant and wildlife populations can be directly linked to causes driven by human activity: climate change, deforestation, habitat loss, trafficking and poaching, unsustainable agriculture, pollution and pesticides” On April 22, 2020, World Earth Day’s 50th anniversary, the world is dealing with two crises — one that is immediate from the pandemic and the other which is slowly building as a disaster for our climate.
As citizens of the planet, we can and must solve both these challenges. The world was not prepared for a coronavirus. Leaders ignored hard science and delayed critical actions. We still have time to prepare — in every part of the world — for the climate crisis. Earthrise is the new global standard launched on World Earth Day 2020. We must act together to say that global disaster must never happen again; we must not make the same mistakes twice. The pledge to support the responsible voting of elected officials is one of the campaigns. The idea behind this is to ensure that there are enough people voting for governments and policymakers to support climate action, in spite of all the current corona crisis.
The second major effort of Earthrise is the creation of a digital app that is called Earth Challenge 2020. This is the world’s largest citizen science effort and is a global app that helps gather critical environmental data. It empowers each one of us to become our own ‘citizen scientists’ by providing the tools to measure two major elements of the environment — air quality and plastic pollution. Closer to home, the local beach cleaning activity by volunteers of Namma Beach Namma Chennai are pledged to making a difference and are signed up to be a part of the global Earth Challenge 2020. The group is invested in reducing plastic pollution from the urban beaches along the ECR.
“We are pledged to making a difference in the health of our beaches. On Earth Day 2020, we combed several kilometres of the beach and picked up about 120 kg of garbage and trash — we save the oceans from becoming plastic traps — we do this daily,” said R Alexander, one of the sanitation supervisors of Namma Beach Namma Chennai. Thanks to many heroic actions, the world will overcome and recover from the coronavirus. Life will return to normal, but we must not allow it to return to “business as usual”. We need local heroes like Alexander of Namma Beach Namma Chennai, sanitation workers of the corporation and committed citizens. Our planet — our future — depends on it. 2020 is the year we unite for Climate Action.
Pavitra Sriprakash @pavisriprakash