Why the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day is the Most Important One Ever

On this Earth Day 2020, most humans find themselves stuck inside. Meanwhile, mountainsides are emerging, waterways are clearing, and wildlife is flourishing. Amidst all that is happening in our world right now, there’s a “green lining” to it all.

It was just 52 years ago, when the crew of Apollo 8 first gave us a brand-new perspective on our planet. For the first time in history, humans saw full-color images of Earth from the far side of its moon. A truly spectacular view of our great planet from the outside looking in. William Anders, the photographer and an astronaut on that mission, summed up the moment by saying, “We came all this way to explore the Moon, and the most important thing is that we discovered the Earth.” 

best earth day photo origin
The iconic “Earthrise” photo was taken on December 24, 1968.
Source: Wikipedia

Fueled by this new perspective, Earth Day was created in 1970, just two years after Astronaut Anders transmitted his iconic photos back to Earth.

This new perspective of the Earth became such an important step towards preserving our planet because it gave us a new breathtaking vision of the place we call home. An Earth with beauty and awe that’s worth recognizing, celebrating, and ultimately – a place worth preserving for years to come.

Fast forward 50 years and the 2020 Coronavirus pandemic has unexpectedly gifted with another perspective of Earth. A perspective on the unrelenting determination of our planet to remain clean, beautiful, and unpolluted – despite all the neglect and harm heaped upon it.

pollution decrease during cornavirus
NASA Earth images show the stunning drop in nitrogen dioxide over China during Coronavirus Quarantine. Source: NASA Earth

After decades of burning fossil fuels, emitting billions upon billions of pounds of carbon emissions and other harmful pollutants the atmosphere, the mighty Earth wastes no time in showing us all it has yet to offer. Mountains once shrouded in dusky grey hazes are emerging more clearly into view for the first time in decades. The waterways of Venice are cleaner than people of this century ever thought possible. This is what happens when human interference and fossil fuel consumption is greatly reduced. 


A sharp decrease in motorboat traffic has revealed clearer waters in this Venice canal. Source: Business Insider

On this Earth Day 2020, the beauty of our planet is more evident than it has been in decades. But if we want this beauty to remain, we must fight for our planet’s survival on more than just one day out of the year.

First, Take a Breath

Whether you’ve been locked up at home for weeks or have been out protesting the current Coronavirus lockdown, we all want the same thing: to breathe easier and move forward stronger. And while today the shared enemy is COVID-19, the larger enemy, lurking in the background, is pollutants of our fragile earth. What’s interesting is that COVID-19 and pollutants have more in common than you may think.

Just this month, a new Harvard University study confirmed a statistical link between death from coronavirus and air pollution. The 17-year study concluded that “a small increase in long-term exposure to fine particular matter found in fossil fuel emissions leads to a large increase in COVID-19 death rate.” Essentially, many of the pre-existing conditions that increase the risk of death from coronavirus are the same health conditions affected by long-term air pollutants.

From another angle, the indirect link between climate change and infectious diseases has long been known. In fact, Zoonotic diseases (those spread from animals to humans) have quadrupled in the last 50 years. One of the main causes is changes to the natural habitat of our planet’s animal population. Deforestation, which is linked to increased carbon dioxide emissions, forces humans and animals (some of which carry infectious diseases) to become physically closer and more at risk for disease to flourish.

Next, See the Green Lining

Now we find ourselves in a time where we’re paying the price for our reckless treatment of our planet. Now, on this 50th anniversary of Earth Day, we need to change our behaviors. It’s not too late. But these changes in how we respect our Earth won’t just happen on their own. No one can bail our planet out of this crisis but ourselves. It will require individual willingness to redouble our efforts on the change to a more sustainable world.

In the midst of this Coronavirus pandemic, we must find a way to see the “green lining” and take action in order to preserve something greater than ourselves.

For example, Venso Automotive Solutions has found that perspective changes are happening among UK consumers. The firm found that 45% of survey respondents were now considering buying an electric vehicle after seeing how clear the air can be.

blue and green small chevy evs
Interest in electric vehicles has increased in the United Kingdom due to recent events.

Until recently, environmentalists would mostly rely on frightening statistics like, “every mile you drive in your gasoline vehicle puts 411 grams of harmful carbon emissions into the atmosphere.” Of course, such statements sound horrible, but these words are not really tangible to the average person. Such a statement is just one bad piece to the overall horrific puzzle of climate change. Now, we have a chance to clearly see the impact we’ve have on our Earth.

mountainside better visible during coronavirus
The Dhauladhar Mountain Range in Himachal is more visible than it’s been in 30 years due to drops in air pollution levels during the Coronavirus pandemic. Source: Diksha Walia

But just seeing alone changes nothing.

Then, Think Different

Imagine for a moment if we had the luxury of being tipped off about this present Coronavirus decades ago. We would have had the opportunity to start stockpiling masks, gowns, respirators, toilet paper, and testing kits years before this crisis got to the overwhelming point it has reached. Before we ever got to a point where we are forced to react instead of simply act

Now stop imagining. That same opportunity is in front of us right now. We’ve been given a rare glimpse of what a switch to clean, renewable energy could do for our planet. And we already know what will happen if we don’t.

Of course, irreversible damage won’t happen as fast as a pandemic. But it will happen.

Individual actions and behaviors must come together to create meaningful change. If we change the way we consume energy, we’ll be rewarded with more of the same type of change we’re seeing now in our shared skylines and waterways across the world.

LA skyline during corona virus and earth day 2020
During Cornavirus quarantine, Los Angeles air quality is the best it has been in decades. Source: NBC News

It’s more than just a nice view, it’s a real taste of what’s possible. And with so many various ways humans can transition to renewable energy, we have the tools to make the change happen now. The only question is, what are you waiting for?

Finally, Be the Change

Act now to save our planet earth or react later. And if you choose to act, act in responsible ways that create real change.

“When the freedom they wished for most was freedom from responsibility, then [they] ceased to be free.”

Edith Hamilton/Edward Gibbon – The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

We can’t change the past, but we can learn from it. Billions of prior individual behaviors have all accumulated to shape your current reality. But YOU have the power, right now, to spark actions that create the future you want to see. To shape the world that you want to see.