Experts: Earth Day’s 50th anniversary | Lessons learned from the pandemic

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Published: 22Apr2020

Earth Day’s mission is to diversify, educate and activate the environmental movement worldwide. Growing out of the first Earth Day in 1970, Earth Day Network is the world’s largest recruiter to the environmental movement, working with more than 75,000 partners in over 190 countries to drive positive action for our planet.

Here are some experts from McGill University that can provide comment on this issue:

Eric Galbraith, Professor, Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences

"For decades, we have tried - and failed - to act on climate change. It seemed as though real progress was impossible and that we were locked into a zombie walk into the future. Governments seemed to care about profits much more than people. However, the response to COVID-19 has turned that upside-down. It shows that most governments of the world are ready to put the welfare of people first. This is great news for our future, and that of our planet. We will need to push our governments to keep working for people, once we have made it through the COVID-19 pandemic."

Eric Galbraith is a Professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences. He has worked on climate change, biogeochemistry and ecology. His current work aims for an integrative understanding of global sustainability problems, combining Earth system science approaches with simple representations of the global human system.

eric.galbraith [at] mcgill.ca (English)

Elena Bennett, Professor, Department of Natural Resource Sciences and McGill School of the Environment

“I am heartened by the speed with which humans have responded to the coronavirus. I think the tools people have developed to deal with the pandemic may be helpful in confronting climate change and other important environmental issues. The mutual aid efforts that have sprung up to get groceries or make masks for vulnerable people show the potential for community action. The call for people to stay home — and the measurable impact of social distancing efforts when people comply — reveals the importance of official actions and the need for every person to participate. In the months and years to come, when a covid-19 vaccine is developed and the pandemic is contained, I hope people won’t forget these bright spots - that we will take these good things and hold onto them and figure out how to steer them toward the larger climate conversation. I also know that, while individuals and community groups can make progress, we also clearly need strong and supportive interventions from civil society and government to help push in the right direction. One group alone can’t make this happen.”

Elena Bennett, is a Professor in the Department of Natural Resource Sciences, an ecosystem ecologist and the co-founder of the group Seeds of Good Anthropocenes which collects and studies the ways that people address environmental problems.

Elena.bennett [at] mcgill.ca (English)

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