Earth Day Turns 50

April 22, 2020

It’s Earth Day. I wanted to write today about something that has been on my mind as I work, cook, clean, exercise and self-isolate with my doll of a husband doing what we do as best as we can.

We have reached the place in this twilight zone we now call life where we are becoming a bit brittle, overworked and under-or unemployed. We long to meet friends for a coffee or lunch. We miss hugs. It’s frustrating, this isolation; this separation from each other. Humans aren’t wired for solitude and inactivity (well, most of us anyway).

We have been cooking (you’ve been cooking, right?), which is a new thing for so many of us, sadly. It’s a lot, even now, when you have more time, but don’t stop. Cooking helps; it really does. It really does make things feel a little better…for you, for your loved ones. Cooking allows you to transform simple ingredients into luscious sustenance and comfort.

Cooking, when I am in “the zone,” helps me to forget, for just a little while that I can’t leave my house freely or ring up a girlfriend to meet for a coffee. Cooking helps me to feel less anxious.

As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day, when reality sinks in and I grow moderately terrified of what will happen, I think of the planet. I think of how our fragile home is taking the opportunity to heal while we are sheltering in place. Pay attention to that. The signs are everywhere. The crystal clear canals in Venice with no cruise ships and tourist-laden gondolas stirring up the silt that is the foundation of the city. No trash, tossed by lazy passersby pollute the waters. Maps of smog from China to California and everywhere in between shows a marked increase in the quality of the air we breathe. Pollution of water and air has been dramatically reduced.

Mother Earth is healing and doing it quickly as her delinquent children sit inside on gorgeous spring days, grounded, in a way, by our own misbehavior. Humans have, for far too long tramped across the planet like bulls in a china shop, plundering resources as our whims and desires dictate.

We put into power elected officials who value business and profit over sustainable living and sensible consumption. Rolling back regulations that protect our water and air quality, prevent pollution and do not hold people and companies accountable, but are more conducive to profit, so they give no thought to the planet, future generations or human health.

And we, the voters think…what? That someone will wave a magic wand and clean the planet, stopping the effects of climate change?

Well, someone did wave that wand but it turns out that it was a flame thrower and Mother Nature waved it. She has our attention now and one thing is perfectly clear.

The planet is healing…and fast for one reason and one reason only: we are not out in such great numbers plundering her resources at the same rate we have been. And that leads to only one sensible conclusion: we humans and our lifestyles and desires are the main causes of the slow decline of our planet. How else might this sudden reversal of climate change be explained? It has often been said by experts that a massive change in lifestyle would have to occur to have any impact on the rate that the climate was changing. And here we are. It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature.

Sheltering in place; staying home has taught us something else. It has taught us how badly we needed to slow down; to jump off the carousel of modern living. Physically, we have been running ourselves ragged in pursuit of…what exactly? Always wanting more, while so many around us, right in our own neighborhoods, have so little? Spiritually, this isolation can teach us how to be peaceful and content with what we have. It’s kind of refreshing to live in the moment (I do, however, wish this moment of self-reflection wasn’t caused by a deadly global pandemic). Let’s stop complaining about our loved ones’ quirks. There are so many separated from each other, craving the togetherness that we took for granted for so long. Enjoy every moment with your loved ones if you have them around you.

While these days are stressful and uncertain, it’s not a time to moan about being bored. Stop binge-watching whatever it is that you’re binge-watching. There’s only so much lethargy your body can take. It’s time to do something with your time; something productive and constructive. Let’s actually be stronger together and not let it become a little cliché like “you are what you eat,” (although truer words were never spoken in both cases).

If you can sew and have material on hand, make masks for first responders.

Bake cookies for first responders, fire fighter, hospital workers (dropped of curbside for everyone’s safety).

Cook for a neighbor who lives alone and leave at their door with a note that lets them know that you know they exist.

Exercise to enhance your body’s ability to fight infection…aka immune boost.

Download free apps and learn a new language or skill.

Reach out to someone you know is alone and remind them that they are loved.

Meditate or pray for your own mental health.

Do something physical like deep cleaning every room or painting the bathroom (or whatever room) or finally getting to that project you abandoned so long ago to the passive entertainment of a screen.

Cook. And cook some more.

The more you sit, the more tired and hopeless you feel and yet sleep eludes you. You know I am right.

For me, all of this comes down to a simple truth: we need each other and life is a collaborative effort. We can’t just say we are all in this together and head back to the couch to watch another episode of Tiger King (ugh…really, how is this a hit?). We have to actually be in this together so that we can come out the other side wiser, kinder and more conscious of the impact of our actions…on our planet and on each other.

Stay safe and well out there. You are loved.