Every year on April 22, the world comes together to mark Earth Day – birthed from the early environmental movements of the 1970s. This year marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day and brings together over 1 billion individuals from across the world to advocate, mobilize and defend our Earth.
The 2020 theme for Earth Day is climate action. Taking action to protect our climate does not have to be difficult or complicated. Everyone has a role they can play in reducing their environmental impact and protecting our Earth. Individually, we can take small steps to reduce our daily emissions by taking public transit, changing our diets and being mindful of what we purchase. Globally, governments can lead the research and implementation of renewable energy sources such as solar which is becoming a more affordable and accessible power source.
In March of 2020, many of us in North America were challenged with a unique problem that we have not encountered in 100 years; a global pandemic. COVID-19 has shut down entire countries, grounded air traffic, closed cities and common public amenities like restaurants, public transit, libraries etc. This disruption in our social, economic and political systems has left many communities and individuals reeling from the shock.
In order to combat the virus, governments and specialists have ordered social distancing measures to “flatten the curve” so our healthcare systems are not overwhelmed. And we’re seeing that these measures are slowly working.
But what if we could apply this same call to action to our current climate crisis? How can we use this same model to “flatten the emissions” curve? We came together to combat COVID-19, could we not also come together to combat climate change? We could see amazing and unprecedented results.
Impact on the atmosphere due to coronavirus
According to The Guardian, global carbon emissions from the fossil fuel industry could fall by a record 2.5 billion tonnes this year from the impact of the corona virus. Due to the restrictions on local and international travel, industry and work, billions of barrels of oil, trillions of cubic metres of gas and millions of tonnes of coal will be cut from the global energy system in 2020 alone.
According to the Financial Times, the aviation industry accounts for about 2% of global carbon emissions. The reduction in flights is expected to reduce pollution levels, with emissions from the sector dropping by almost a third last month.
According to the World Economic Forum, travel restrictions have changed the atmospheric health of places like Hubei province in China after the government-imposed strict restrictions. The map showcases the reduction of Nitrate particles in the atmosphere. These particles or only 3% of the diameter of human hair, and can penetrate deep into the lungs and enter the bloodstream, leading to heart disease, strokes or cancer. Nitrate aerosols are formed from nitrogen compounds, which can be emitted by human activities, especially burning fuel and diesel.
As you can see, levels in China plummeted with the lockdown restrictions:
Impact on animals due to coronavirus
With humans self-isolating in their homes, animals that usually stay away from urban areas now have space to roam. In northern India, a herd of deer was caught on camera walking the streets of Haridwar during the nationwide COVID-19 lockdown. And wild boar have been spotted in the centre of Barcelona, Spain. Mountain goats were also spotted on the streets of Wales
We see that in a matter of few weeks of humans being mindful of where they travel, we can see the positive influence this has on our global wildlife. What we learn from this is that taking the action against our climate doesn’t just mean reducing our emissions but also being responsible in not endangering, poaching, cutting down habitats of so many animals.
Good news at MEDA
For our project in Ukraine, we have seen over the past year that there has been an increase in usage of environment approaches such as drip irrigation, bio fertilizers, crop rotation. There has also been an increase emphasis on growing organic crops
Our project in Tanzania, our team has issued environment audit certificates for 3 lead firms we partner with. The project also successfully installed a solar system for MEDA lead firm, Mambaleo Farms Ltd., which is supported by MEDA to become more environmentally sustainable by implementing solar systems for irrigation – supporting Mamboleo to grow higher yielding, less water intensive rice varieties.
In our Nigeria project, meetings are held with representatives from the state and national government bodies along with local stakeholders about the importance of climate-smart practices and integrating environmentally sustainable initiatives to protect water and food resources. Nigeria has pledged to plant 2.5 million trees across 11 states in the North as part of the Africa Great Green Wall initiative and MEDA is keen to participate. The Great Green Wall is an African-led movement with an epic ambition to grow an 8,000km natural wonder of the world across the entire width of Africa. Once complete, the Great Green Wall will be the largest living structure on the planet, 3 times the size of the Great Barrier Reef.
Earth Day was established to advocate for the environment and encourage people to change their behaviors to protect our Earth. With the global pandemic, we have a unique opportunity to re-evaluate our individual practices and consumption. Let’s use this time to reflect on how we can learn to serve our environment and the Earth that gives us life. With global emissions on the rise, and extreme weather impacting us all, it is great to see how our projects around the world are considering the environment in their work and emphasizing it’s importance with their project activities.
Responsive, global change is possible. We’ve seen it these past couple months. We can come together to protect each other, it’s time to extend that same care to our Earth because she needs us.
For more information on how MEDA's programming is working to combat the economic challenges of COVID-19, please click here.