Happy Earth Day Earthlings!

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Please forgive me. It wasn’t my intention to write another editorial about sustainability, but tomorrow is Earth Day, and I just couldn’t help myself.

Here we are again, in the 51st year of celebrating Earth Day. Many of us are from a generation that got to see that little blue planet, in colour, third from the Sun, on television, from images taken from the Apollo 8 in 1968. It was the first time that humans captured this image on film.

Earthrise taken from Apollo 8 by William Anders

At that moment, we were mesmerized by this blue ball that we all live on. We saw it there surrounded by dark space and finally recognized, this is it – the place we call home. This is everything we have.

I was a child when this image appeared in the media, yet it is forever burned in my memory. Whenever I think of Earth Day, I see the image of our planet, the blueness of the water, then I think of the ‘nothingness’ that surrounds us, out there. I know there are other planets out there, but the image is so striking that it highlights the fact that we are orbiting on our own. We are the ones who live here, making the journey around the Sun together every day.

We hear the talk of making other planets habitable, in case we mess this one up too badly. We hear about missions to Mars. It has been said, that if we have the technology to make another planet habitable, shouldn’t we use that technology here, to keep our planet livable?

In just one generation, we have moved from a species who have been able to see their home from afar, to a species who dream of living on another planet, and doing it with an understanding that we have wreaked ecological havoc on this one.

Dr. Glen Barry, wrote: “Humanity is hell-bent upon destroying their habitat and the natural capital which makes possible and enriches their existence. As the collapse of global ecosystems intensify, together we face a brief period of unimaginably grim social strife that threatens decades of conflict and pain; before humanity, all life, and the biosphere die.”

It is pretty safe to think not all of us will be in a position to afford that golden ticket to buy our way out of here. So, once we recognize that truth, we have to take action. We must then enter a new age, an age of ecological restoration so that we can avoid the collapse of societies, and ultimately, the biosphere.

As soon as the COVID-19 pandemic hit, many people retreated to the sanctity of their homes, first to panic, and then to rethink how we are all living. We hear, quips, such as: “We cannot return to normal, because normal wasn’t all that great.” Yet now people are baking their own bread, planting gardens, growing vegetables. The crowds working from home actually contribute to a reduction in carbon emissions. We started to think a little more seriously, and deeply, about how we live here, on this little ‘blue ball’.

When I worked with the Forest Stewardship Council of Canada, we were challenged to develop a forest management system to protect the Caribou habitat. While I am no expert, I became earnestly engaged in the effort as I had seen a front page story in the Globe and Mail warning that Caribou herds are on the decline and on the list of endangered species because of the decline in their habitat quality. That front page news shook me up, and alerted me to the need for every single one of us to take action.

If you think about the threads that connect us all, and how intricately our ecological systems are interconnected and inter-reliant, what would it mean to other species once the Caribou were gone? It’s a pretty big thread to rip, and could result in an unraveling of a lot of ecological fabric.

On Earth Day, let’s take a moment to acknowledge other species who are orbiting with us on this planet we call home. Let’s do something meaningful as an act of ecological restoration. Let us help wherever, and however, we can. Happy Earth Day Earthlings! It is a pleasure to be making this orbit in your company.

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