Nel's New Day

April 22, 2020

You Can Save the Earth

Today in the midst of the worst pandemic for more than a century, Earth Day spent its 50th anniversary. For over three years, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT), elected by a minority of the U.S. voters, has assaulted the environment to favor his friends. In the same way that prominent Republicans say that people should die in order to keep them rich, DDT pollutes and poisons the world. In his most recent efforts, the ones after he stopped the enforcement of most environmental regulations “indefinitely,” he now permits life-threatening chemicals on products used for cooking and argues that any control of mercury and other toxic pollution from power plants isn’t “appropriate and necessary.”

On April 22, 1970, twenty million people marched and rallied to clean up the country. Fifty years later, the destruction of habitats has displaced wildlife that brought viral outbreaks. Past ones such as AIDS, Ebola, and SARS have moderate control; with no leadership in the United States, the current one, COVID-19, has swept across the nation, infected millions and killing an unknown number because only a little over one percent of the people in the U.S. have been tested.

On Earth Day 2020, the entire leadership of the United States, including 75 percent of environmental managers working for the fossil fuel industries, promotes fossil fuel production at the loss of all alternative energies and roll back auto emissions standards. For example, Head of the BLM William Perry Pendley believes that the Endangered Species Act is “rural genocide” meant to drive residents off the land. For decades, the United States has seen the escalation of the militia movement that wants county sheriffs to arrest federal employees who enforce environmental rules and the purge of environmental Republican in Congress.

The one bonus of the current pandemic is the lessening of pollution which kills about 4.2 million people throughout the planet from stroke, heart disease, and respiratory illnesses. In just New York, carbon monoxide from cars during the past couple of month has been reduced by nearly 50 percent compared from the same months last year. The massive decline of pollution and greenhouse gases in China for just two months probably saved the lives of 4,000 young children and 73,000 elderly adults in just China.

Seimologists from Belgium to New Zealand can better track tremors with people staying home. They determine the lessening of noise pollution means people can avoid stress-related illnesses, high blood pressure, sleep disruption, etc. The lack of noise pollution from cruise ships makes marine animals healthier and increases their reproduction by decreasing stress-hormone levels.

Other sea creatures may be making a comeback. For almost a decade, the sea stars, vital to preserving the kelp forests by eating sea urchins, have been wasting along the West Coast, possibly from a virus. One theory about the disappearance of sea stars is the large number of people on the beaches. Nature may have gotten to the tipping point of survival with the human invasion.

The frantic search for a solution to COVID-19 may lead to saving the environment. As researchers push to find information about pathogens and their human hosts may discover answers to the disappearing coral reefs, possibly from highly contagious bacterial diseases. The 50 percent of pathogenic bacteria and coral diseases in sea grass found in Indonesian waters could be from human sewage. Researchers are replicating the sea grass in Puget Sound for human defenses in medicines and diet. They already determined that mangrove sea squirts have antimicrobial agents and anticancer drugs. Algae and the blue blood from abalone can stop herpes and flu viruses.

The shrinking of the ozone layer over Antarctica shows that people can make a difference in climate change if they try. By 2000, the 1987 Montreal Protocol to stop ozone-depleting substances (ODS) reversed the jet stream direction to head back to the north. The change in the jet stream had pushed rain away from the coastal areas of Australia, causing drought and ensuing wildfires. The decreasing rainfall may change with the shift in jet streams and ocean currents.

After 50 years of honoring the environment on Earth Day, the majority of people say they take at least seven of 15 actions to help the environment during the past year, beginning with 85 percent who voluntarily recycle. Over half reduced use of energy, tried to use less water, used reusable shopping bags, avoided products harming the environment or bought products better for the environment, and replaced  incandescent light bulbs with fluorescent or luminescent ones.

Last month, people shared a poem that went viral across the internet. They claimed that it was written in 1869 by Kathleen O’Mara and reprinted for the 1918 flu pandemic. The author is actually a retired Wisconsin teacher and palliative care chaplain, Catherine O’Meara, who wrote it in March 2020 because of the current pandemic.  

“And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows.

“And the people began to think differently.

“And the people healed. And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal.

“And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.”

In 2017, Jane Hirschfield wrote this poem for Earth Day. Its prescience is even more important in 2020 when the anti-science leadership of the United States avoids finding solutions for the current health disaster.

“On the fifth day/the scientists who studied the rivers/were forbidden to speak/or to study the rivers.

“The scientists who studied the air/were told not to speak of the air,/and the ones who worked for the farmers/were silenced,/and the ones who worked for the bees.

“Someone, from deep in the Badlands,/began posting facts.

“The facts were told not to speak/and were taken away.

“The facts, surprised to be taken, were silent.

“Now it was only the rivers/that spoke of the rivers,/and only the wind that spoke of its bees,/while the unpausing factual buds of the fruit trees/continued to move toward their fruit.

“The silence spoke loudly of silence,/and the rivers kept speaking,/of rivers, of boulders and air.

“In gravity, earless and tongueless,/the untested rivers kept speaking.

“Bus drivers, shelf stockers,/code writers, machinists, accountants,/lab techs, cellists kept speaking.

“They spoke, the fifth day,/of silence.

Poet Lynn Ungar wrote her response to the current sheltering at home. The first few lines: 

“What if you thought of it/as the Jews consider the Sabbath—/the most sacred of times?

“Cease from travel.

“Cease from buying and selling.

“Give up, just for now,/on trying to make the world/different than it is.”

The United States is now facing an economic disaster over twice as bad as the one caused by George W. Bush in 2009—and it’s combined with a health disaster. During the Great Recession over a decade ago, people modified their buying habits—mending instead of trashing, cooking instead of always eating out, buying second-hand instead of from elite stores—trying to conserve because they had no money. President Obama pulled the United States people out of this disaster, but they went back to their wasteful ways. If only people will keep patterns of saving after COVID-19 is really under control instead returning to destroying the planet through their extravagant lifestyles.

[Thanks to Ann Hubard and Sue Hardesty for photos of an environment we need to preserve.]

On April 22, the U.S. has 849,092 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 47,681 deaths, as well as countless others who weren’t tested. That’s a 12-percent increase in deaths during the past two days.

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