Over the last few years, we’ve heard of several grim consequences as a result of climate change, like the ice of Greenland and Antarctica melting significantly faster than predicted; or the prediction that more than 90% of earth’s once vibrant coral reefs will be dead by the year 2050.
We’ve witnessed things that will go down in history for the most dreadful reasons, like the death of Sudan, the last male White Northern Rhino who survived 45-years after being captured and placed in captivity, before finally being brought to a wildlife conservatory in Kenya. Similarly, we’ve seen species that once ran rampant decline in numbers until they were barely in existence.
And unfortunately, we’ve also seen policies implemented and reversed, that threaten the futures of several species – and that reduce their existence to nothing more than a challenge to be won or a trophy to be hung on a wall.
We’ve seen and experienced the virtually endless succession of natural disasters all across the world that has affected entire cities, families, and ecosystems. We’ve witnessed the challenges that these communities face when trying to rebuild.
And unfortunately, we’ve also had the displeasure of listening to skeptics who refuse to acknowledge the negative actions that have played a role in these catastrophes.
We’ve heard horror stories, such as that of a sperm whale washing up on the shores of Spain with a stomach filled of 64 pounds of plastic, and of towns plagued by toxic drinking water where many face crippling health effects.
At times it’s hard not to cradle your head in your hands and think, “Look what we’re doing. Look what we’ve done.”
And yet, just when we feel we’ve gone too far and that all the damage caused is irreversible, we bare witness to how much of a difference a small group of people can make. And we see how strong mother earth is despite all of the strikes against her.
Though we’ve seen many species fall to the demise of extinction, there have also been discoveries of over six dozen new species of plants and animals in the past year.
We’ve seen the Chesapeake Bay, at one point one of the most polluted estuaries in the United States, regrow a substantial amount of seagrass due to new farming and sewage methods, and the actions of volunteers.
We’ve seen children with vision clearer than those triple their age take action to better our planet, such as sisters Melati and Isabel Wisjen who’ve set a goal to make their home island of Bali plastic-free.
And when we see how much has been done and how much can be done, we can say much more enthusiastically, “Look at what we’re doing! Look at what we’ve done.”
And so what it comes down to is which side you’d like to have the largest hand in; whether you’d like to be the hand that drops the bottle or the one that picks up the shovel and helps. Whether you’d like to be the one who takes a stand and takes a conscious look at your actions, or the one who turns a blind eye.
And so my challenge to everyone this Earth Day (or a few day’s late) is to take a step back and ask yourself, “What have I been doing?”
And then do better.