Commemorating the 50th anniversary of Earth Day in the time of coronavirus

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If the coronavirus pandemic hadn’t happened, this year would have been a milestone for environmentalists all over the world.

Last Wednesday, April 22, was the 50th anniversary of Earth Day and a lot of celebrations here on Guam and around the world were planned but had to be canceled because of the coronavirus.

Sen. Sabina Perez, who chairs the legislature’s environment committee, nevertheless made it a point to at least acknowledge the Earth Day milestone in spite of the continuing pandemic.

“On this 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, we understand better than ever the importance of respecting and protecting our planet. Our ecosystems are fragile, and unforeseen events can quickly, and drastically, threaten all we take for granted,” Perez said.

“As we plan for the next 50 years, we must do so with a clear vision toward sustainability and healing. We face daunting global and local challenges, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing climate change emergency that threatens our very existence,” she added.

Ironically, the societal withdrawal caused by the coronavirus has seen a drop in air pollutants due to the decrease of cars on the road and the closure of factories ordered by stay-at-home policies.

Places with the highest smog such as China and India are now seeing much clearer and cleaner air as a result of the lessening of harmful emissions.

Even satellite data from NASA showed a 30% drop in air pollutants in the northeastern section of the U.S. during March.

The air had particularly low quantities of nitrogen dioxide, or NO2, ABC News quoted Barry Lefer, a NASA air quality scientist, as saying.

“Power plants, automobiles, and the trucks, those are the things that are big NO2 emitters,” Lefer told ABC News.

Taking care of each other

Here on Guam, Senator Perez said that even though the coronavirus continues to have devastating effects on our island, and communities across the world, Guam’s people have shown that in the face of what is truly a global catastrophe, residents can turn to one another despite institutional, political, and cultural boundaries to fulfill the needs of the community and look after the most vulnerable among us.

She said it is heartening to see community groups, agencies, and individuals fill the gaps and take initiative by providing PPEs, meals, and other essential services to assist the government during shortages.

“I am also encouraged by the collective care each of us has shown by making sure we, and those closest to us, stay at home and practice social distancing. We are proof that by living and breathing Inafa’maolek, and practicing reciprocity, we can help our communities redevelop, provide for others in their time of need, and create the type of change we need as a people, for our planet,” the senator said.

She added: “Our island is resilient, and I have faith that our shared compassion, ingenuity, and drive will guide us in creating a more sustainable future. We are interconnected. Our ancestors knew this lesson well, and today it is as important as ever that we see ourselves in relation to the larger Marianas, to Oceania, and to the world. It is our collective responsibility to protect our species, our environment, and our planet. Together, we can establish sustainable practices that will honor our ancestors and protect future generations.”

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