Today marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. Fifty is also an important number of years in nature’s regeneration cycle. Dr. Kathy Allen provides some thoughts on Earth Day and the 50-year anniversary, its relevancy in the face of the pandemic and some good news for all of us. We’ve included a transcript of the conversation below the video as well. Happy Earth Day!
Q: This is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. In nature, 50 years is a really important marker. Can you talk about that a little bit?
Kathy Allen: Sometimes people believe that it takes about 50 years for an important shift in the way we think to actually fully show up in our mainstream culture. This 50th anniversary may be telling us that Earth, our relationship to Earth, our relationship to nature, and our impact on Earth and nature is a significant and important thing to pay attention to and change our habits. Particularly our consumptive habits, that have been exploiting and extracting and diminishing Earth’s vitality.
Q: You’ve said and written a lot that in the post COVID-19 world, climate change is going to become even more relevant. Why is Earth Day itself even more relevant? What should we be thinking about in the middle of this pandemic?
KA: The pandemic is causing a significant disruption in many ways. One is it’s reminding us how interdependent everything is in our world and that our actions have intended and unintended positive and negative consequences. So if there’s anything that we’re learning from the pandemic, we’re learning that there is a clear message that the way we have lived day to day has created a significant impact on our environment, on the air quality, even on the movement patterns of animals, for example. And we’re reminded that we have an obligation and a responsibility to understand the importance of maintaining, sustaining and increasing the vitality of our home habitat. Pandemics and sheltering in place give us an opportunity to pause and reflect. We can think about our habits of consumption, our habits of fossil fuels, and we can choose to show up differently coming out of it.
Q. And you think there is even more disruption coming?
KA: I do think so. We knew before the pandemic that the next 10 years are critical to reducing carbon emissions in the world. We know that if we don’t reach 2030 without significantly reducing our carbon emissions and moving towards carbon neutral, we’re going to reach a tipping point where nature, the Earth and the climate becomes less habitable for human beings and it will affect every single person on the planet. And that means that there are going to be weather events, fires, tsunamis, hurricanes, series of tornadoes, major disruptions that we’re going to have to live through. We’ve had a series of significant weather disruptions with increasing intensity. That’s the Earth telling us to pay attention. And because our systems are interconnected, we’ll have ripple effects throughout our economic and human systems. So we can choose to use the pandemic as just something to get through – or we can choose to use the pandemic as a way to learn how to handle and restore, and regenerate our systems on the other side.
Q: But there’s some good news in all of this, right?
KA: The good news is that we have an opportunity to notice and choose to redesign our next iteration in a different way. A lot of people are trying to hold onto the old normal, but others are running as fast as they can towards the new. And I think the new is going to help us think about ways to design our organizations so they’re resilient. How do we design our organizations so they can regenerate after disruption? What are we doing that is no longer really helpful?
And we have a lot of good news on weather and clean air and more bird sounds in our backyards and Earth Day is set in spring, at least in the Northern hemisphere, and it’s a lovely time for growth, the germination of new ideas, and new life coming out of hibernation. So maybe that’s some good news in the middle of this pandemic, that it gives us this pause to germinate on a new design for living.