By John Gibb

“You hear the word ecology. That’s a big science concerned with the total ecosystem, not just how we dispose of tin cans and bottles in our park. It’s concerned with the habitat of marine creatures, animals, birds, man, and our goal is not just an environment of clean air and water and scenic beauty while forgetting about the worst environments.

“To restore a proper relationship between man and his environment, between man and other living creatures will require a long sustained political, moral, ethical and financial commitment far beyond any commitment ever made by any society in the history of man. Are we able? Yes! Are we willing? That’s the unanswered question.” These were the words spoken on April 22, 1970, by U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson who founded Earth Day.

Marine biologist Rachel Carson, in writing her now famous book Silent Spring (1962), alerted the world to the environmental impacts caused by the increasing and indiscriminate use of highly toxic and persistent synthetic herbicides and pesticides. Her courageous work helped to shape a growing environmental consciousness. Although she passed away 60 years ago this month, she clearly helped to set the stage for the very first Earth Day. What might Rachel Carson have said to us today?

“It is not half so important to know as to feel.”

“The human race is challenged more than ever before to demonstrate our mastery, not over nature but of ourselves.”

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature.”

“One way to open your eyes is to ask yourself, ‘What if I had never seen this before? What if I knew I would never see it again?’ ”

The COVID 19 pandemic has reminded us of the extent of our local and global inequality as the most vulnerable among us have suffered the greatest. This is also the case for polluted ecosystems and for our climate crisis, which continues to present an ever greater overall threat to life on this planet.

Loss of habitat and biodiversity are exacerbated by global warming. For those of us primarily in the west, who’ve had the luxury of practicing social distancing and access to food, water and shelter, we have shown that we can change our behaviour.

Maybe we’re learning that our habitual and at times rather unconscious habits of mindless consumption, travel and investment, which levy a toll on those we may never see, are not essential to our lives. While enjoying the luxury of the acclaimed western lifestyle, we do so at the cost to other human beings less fortunate, and to all other life with whom we share this amazing planet. This awareness could be the silver lining within the dark cloud of the pandemic.

Working together we saved our precious Greenbelt from greed-driven destruction.  We proved that environmental justice and social justice are inseparable and we’ve only just begun!

The amazing and inspirational primatologist Jane Goodall will have the final word on Earth Day as every day:

“You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”