Assistant Director, JPIC
Every April, many of us – more than a billion people, globally – set aside a day to focus our attention and energies on our planet and its needs. We might be more conscious of turning off our lights or powering-down our electronics, or we might join a local group to pick up litter or plant trees. The politically-engaged might use the day to mobilize advocacy efforts demanding eco-friendly policies. Often, however, our efforts dwindle as Earth Day fades and “the usual” responsibilities of our lives take precedence. We might continue to care for our earth in some ways – recycling paper or refusing plastic bags, for example – but the focused and sustained care that energizes us on Earth Day often dissipates.
And yet, we cannot fail to notice that our world is becoming increasingly defaced and volatile. As we pump millions of tons of carbon into the air, spill oil into waterways and oceans, and allow plastics to permeate the food chain, our earth is responding with signs of extreme stress: species are becoming extinct at a rapid rate; droughts, floods, and heatwaves are becoming more prolonged and severe; sea levels are rising; storms are becoming more intense. Importantly, “the destruction and disruption all those events bring to people in all parts of the globe are increasing.” It bears emphasizing that environmental degradation has the strongest impact on the people who are already vulnerable to poverty and food and water insecurity.