Earth Day is upon us, and with it the time of year during which many think about their relationship with Earth. It's tempting to write tips for the top five things you can do to save the earth, or easy ways to make a difference, but the reality of the natural world on this Earth Day is that we are WAY beyond that. Every day, climate change is causing so much irreparable harm to earth that we all must make commitments to real change now.
- Courtesy Sarah Mowry
- A call to action this Earth Day: Do something, rather than nothing.
Climate change is the number-one environmental issue facing our planet today. But, pull yourself out of the doom scrolling (yes, you can find LOTS of data on how bad it is!), and focus instead on how we're going to save our rivers, our forests, our mountains, our deserts, our farms, our children and grandchildren. Then, take action! Our house is on fire and real action is what we need and we need it on a variety of levels.
COVID has given us all a pause to look at our personal lives and decide what really matters. Can you look at your biggest carbon-emitting practices and make some real lasting changes? This is where it's good to remember that our individual carbon emissions are not equal, and neither are climate change impacts.
Higher-income people have a larger carbon footprint, but unfortunately climate change impacts disproportionally affect already marginalized communities. What can you do that might make a real difference? Can you work from home instead of driving somewhere each day? Travel less—especially by airplane? Grow your own food instead of buying food that has been flown thousands of miles? Use less—remember when we couldn't find toilet paper—use everything like it is in limited supply, because it is! The earth can only give us so much. Remember we are beyond "simple ways to help the Earth." These changes will be hard and challenge you, but the Earth is asking us for help. It's time to give something back.
Science tells us that natural solutions to climate change can also help make a difference. Our farms can use agricultural practices that improve carbon storage. Our native forests, grasslands and wetlands can help remove carbon from the air. We desperately need to conserve what we have left of these natural systems and then help restore them so they are healthy and can do their job in nature. How can you help? Donate your time and money to local, national and global groups that conserve and care for land and water and promote sustainable agriculture. There are groups right here in Central Oregon doing this work day in and day out and they need your help.
We can focus on the personal and natural solutions until we are blue in the face, but it won't make a difference unless we focus on systemic solutions. We must vote for representatives and legislation that will reduce the amount of carbon we put into the atmosphere every day. We must change where and how we power our homes, our cars and our lives. We can and must make these changes at the local, state, and national level. How can you help? Vote, protest, run for office, lobby for legislation and donate your time and money to groups that advocate for these changes.
This is by no means an exhaustive list; rather; a call for action on this Earth Day. No platitude will make you feel better about climate change. It's an ALL hands on deck crisis, and we need ALL the solutions to fight this battle. Luckily real actions can make a real difference, and we all must make an effort to protect what we love the most. This Earth Day, make real change to fight the climate crisis.
-Sarah Mowry is the Deschutes Land Trust's Outreach Director. She has worked for the Land Trust since 2005 and leads its communications and community engagement efforts.