Mother Earth’s Call to Action – Earth Day 2020

Mother Earth’s Call to Action – Earth Day 2020

Today, 22nd April, is International Mother Earth Day but this is an Earth Day unlike any other. With events moving online due to the coronavirus, this year’s 50th anniversary event is the first-ever Digital Earth Day. This Mother Earth Day also coincides with the Super Year of Biodiversity, begging the question – are we really taking care of our Earth? 

 

Mother Earth is a delicately balanced ecosystem supporting a diverse array of species, including our own. While biological diversity is an indicator of the Earth’s health, its loss is “a benchmark of humanity’s current failure to understand that we are an inextricable part of Nature”, according to the UN Harmony with Nature initiative. 

 

The UN’s environment chief, Inger Anderson, recently said that coronavirus is nature ‘sending us a message’ and that, while short-term efforts need to prevent the virus’s spread, the long-term response must tackle habitat and biodiversity loss. Otherwise, it is feared that the coronavirus outbreak may just be the beginning of mass pandemics.  

 

We are living in the ‘Anthropocene’ – the so-called age of man; a human-influenced age defined by our massive impact on the planet. Biodiversity loss in the 21st century has been termed the “sixth extinction” as humanity has wiped out 60% of animal populations since 1970

 

Now, research is emerging that humanity’s destruction of biodiversity actually creates the conditions for new viruses and diseases such as Covid-19 to arise. This is because zoonotic diseases (diseases which spread from animals to humans) emerge from “biodiversity hot-spots” like tropical rainforests and bushmeat markets. Our destruction and disruption of complex ecosystems through human activities like mining, logging, and road-building causes us to come into contact with animals (some of which we also trap or eat), shaking the virus loose from its natural hosts. Our globalised world, with its constant movement of goods and people, then provides the perfect conditions for the virus to travel further and faster than ever before.  

 

Thus, while coronavirus is a human tragedy on a massive scale, it is not an unpredictable event but a reflection of our failure to care for our planetary home. In the same way that coronavirus is exposing the fact that we have a global public health emergency, it highlights how we have a planetary health emergency, too. 

 

Like any healthcare system, planetary health depends on its ‘health care workers’, including environmental human rights defenders who are at the frontline of environmental protection. Many are indigenous peoples, frequently women, struggling to protect their lands, environment and rights from corporate interests. This is often at great risk to their lives as governments turn a blind eye to the violence and intimidation they face; even despite research showing that protecting the land and rights of indigenous peoples is the best way to keep forests standing, and thereby reduce biodiversity loss  and habitat loss. 

 

Ironically, in Brazil, the coronavirus is weakening protection for the rainforest and the people living there, despite it being exactly this destruction and loss of habitat that allows zoonotic diseases to escape. This example illustrates just how much we, as a species, have become disconnected from nature, and from the reality that we depend on Mother Earth for our collective survival. 

 

Asking if coronavirus is ‘good or bad’ for biodiversity and habitat loss or for climate change is perhaps the wrong question. But this doesn’t mean that there is no right answer. We need to pay attention to the connection between the wellbeing of humans, other living beings, and Mother Earth – and to imagine how we can rebuild a post-coronavirus society that is safe for everyone and for our planet.   

 

For suggestions on how you can join the call to action on International Mother Earth Day, see https://www.stand.ie/earth-day-celebration-activities/. There are loads of different events to get involved in, including virtual panel discussions on women and the environment, and global conversations with indigenous people who are on the frontlines of environmental protection

 

 

Photo by Dennis Jarvis on Flickr

 

 

Browse more stories below or sign up to our newsletter to receive our top news straight to your inbox!

 

 

 

The Emerald Isle? Taking a Closer Look at Dublin’s Biodiversity

With people realizing the importance of nature and green spaces during their confinement in lockdown, and it being the International Day for Biological Diversity, let’s see how Dublin city stacks up.

From post-apocalyptic scenery to post-Covid era: How will we travel tomorrow?

In this last contribution of the series “A closer look at tourism”, we’ll observe the world as we pressed pause during the lockdown, and will try to offer alternatives for a better future of tourism.

Why the UK’s Contact-Tracing App is not the Solution

Many are concerned that, upon emerging from the current crisis, a tool will have been created that enables widespread data collection on the population, or on targeted sections of the population, for surveillance. Concerns are further fed by security threats recently discovered with the UK’s beta app.

A Closer Look at Tourism: Frequently Asked Questions

Welcome to STAND’s new series: “A closer look at tourism”! We answer frequently asked questions related to unethical tourism and how the this can be dealt with.

An interview with Friends of the Earth “We need to showcase the behaviours we want to see”

STAND’s Cedric spoke to Meaghan Carmody, Head of Movement Building at Friends of the Earth Ireland, about the actions we can take for the environment during lockdown.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lCPRyRsBuNw

What Does Bernie Sander’s Exit Mean For An Imperative Green New Deal?

“Let us go forward together. The struggle continues.” This memorable tweet has since garnered close to one million likes and 122,000 retweets since Bernie Sanders typed the words on April 8, 2020; ending his campaign but not the movement.

No, the Coronavirus Is Not Good For the World.

No, the Coronavirus Is Not Good For the World.

As of Friday 17th April 2020, Ireland is three weeks into official lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. There have been over 2 million confirmed cases reported worldwide. Travelling around social media, there has been a dialogue of positivity; taking the time in isolation to focus on what really matters, to practise healing and self-care, perhaps whilst taking up a new skill or utilising pre-existing interests. While the options are plentiful and for some a welcomed opportunity, the narrative of productivity and enjoying the time at home, accompanied by a glass-half-full outlook, can be blinding to a stark reality. Societies globally need optimism and hope to navigate this crisis, to inspire and to motivate. But there are many whose lives have been changed forever, lives lost, mental health deteriorating, and much worse. 

 

533,000 people have received COVID-19 related social welfare, having lost their jobs. Campaigns have commenced around domestic violence, as the risk of harm to victims has increased now they are stuck in unsafe environments with their abuser. People from all socio-economic backgrounds have to navigate a multitude of issues, especially in disadvantaged areas, from lack of privacy and space in the home, heightened familial conflicts, and increased stress. People in direct provision, as well as members of other marginalised groups such as the Roma or travelling communities, do not have access to the resources others in society do, and can’t practise social distancing in their already overpopulated living spaces. Members of our communities have died, and with that, the most unsettling narrative has emerged that coronavirus is actually good for the environment and good for our planet.

 

This outlook is intensely problematic. Cheering on or at the very least accepting the tragedy caused by coronavirus, because of the knock-on effect it has had on climate change is not progress – it’s eco-fascism. A growing problem, eco-fascism is a twisted theoretical political model in which an authoritarian government would require individuals to sacrifice their own interests to the benefit of environment and climate as a whole. Supporters are often characterised by white supremacy, xenophobia, ethnonationalism, and a misguided concern for the care of planet Earth. The assumption that ‘we are the virus’ is counterproductive. Wishing for or praising a disaster such as coronavirus, just because it gets rolling the large-scale changes climate groups, scientists and professionals have been telling us for years are necessary to save the planet, is hypocritical. Positive climate change is to save lives. Coronavirus is not saving lives. There are ways to save the planet without ending human life.

 

While it is true that Earth has been recovering, I must stress that this is all temporary. Predictably, when the crisis ends and elements of life revert to how we knew it, air pollution will resurface. Water pollution will increase. The natural wildlife will leave their newly occupied spaces once the crowds return. Many stories suggesting they have returned in the masses have actually been discounted as fake news. The societal tragedy of this crisis vastly outweighs any marginal environmental benefits, as many environmentalists have stated. 

 

Climate change in its entirety is not based off a population issue, rather capitalism and greed. The response to COVID-19 has demonstrated that in the face of an imminent threat, it is possible for society to change once instructed by the governments. Climate activists have been trying to do this for decades, highlighting the extent of ignorance and inaction of many up until this point. Firstly, there is a disproportionate impact that people in various parts of the world have on the environment. Most consumption occurs in the West, and yet poorer countries will suffer the worst. It will be the already-poor, already-vulnerable, already-sick people who will die.

 

Human population control and eugenics disguised as environmentalism is not a new concept. Paul Ehrlich’s landmark book (1968) brought forward the concept, with the recommendation of sterilization to prevent a future fight for Earth’s resources. Environmentalist Garrett Hardin lobbied against food aid during famines. Post-pandemic, many of the current restrictions (working-from-home, zoom conference calls, fast fashion brands closed) can indeed impact the rate of climate change. However, only time will tell if this enlightened outlook will follow through. While emissions had dropped in February by at least 25% in China, returning to the same capitalist society of consumption will retract the positive change. An Irish survey conducted by Renatus Capital Partners has revealed that almost 80% of 1000 business people will not decrease their air travel or will just cut it marginally after restrictions are lifted.

 

Coronavirus is not a sustainable way to reduce emissions. Co-director of the Earth Institute’s Center for Sustainable Urban Development at Columbia University, Jacqueline Klopp stated: “(Coronavirus is) a symptom of us not addressing our serious environmental and social problems.” The pandemic has increased the amounts of medical and hazardous waste generated. Unethical fast-fashion brands, whereby workers do not earn a fair wage, have reported an upsurge of online sales. Human beings are not the virus, and COVID-19 is not good for the environment. The virus is in the name, and the problem is consumption, capitalism and extraction. Capitalism marches hand-in-hand with eco-fascism, and we don’t need either to save the world.

 

 

Photo by Fateme Alaie on Unsplash

 

 

Browse more stories below or sign up to our newsletter to receive our top news straight to your inbox!

 

 

 

What Coronavirus Reveals about the Economic Stories We Tell

The coronavirus is showing up holes in our economic system and narratives that many have talked about for a long time. If we don’t learn these lessons now, what will it take to learn them?

COVID-19: How to Escape!

As people, many for the first time in their life, become tired of staring at a phone screen, they begin to look for other ways of entertaining themselves. This is where escapism comes in.

A Day in the Life of an Irish Nurse

During these trifling times, we find ourselves isolated from society, worried for our loved ones, terrified of our invisible enemy. Our frontline heroes: the medical staff are working what seem to be endless hours to bring us the best care we could ask for, easing our minds in the midst of worldwide panic. It was never a secret that medical staff have tough jobs. This article will be featuring one of our heroes, a dedicated and hardworking Irish nurse who decided to open the doors of her life working and dealing with COVID-19 in Ireland.

This battle must be halted: Why the war-based rhetoric of Covid-19 should be defeated

For nearly two months now, we have watched as Covid-19 has rampaged through the world at an alarming rate.Throughout its incessant reporting, we have experienced our fair share of war imagery permeating through the media. Words like defeat, enemy, frontlines, field hospitals, battle, fighting, conflict, risk, attack; and, eventually (hopefully), victory, are seemingly constants in its coverage. Ministers meet in “war cabinets” and the ordinary people are encouraged to “do their bit”. Doctors, nurses, supermarket staff, cleaners, public transport workers, post office workers and all other essential workers are going into battle on our behalf. One BBC presenter even communicated his entire segment in terms of the “frontline in a war”.

No, the Coronavirus Is Not Good For the World.

As of Friday 17th April 2020, Ireland is three weeks into official lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. While societies globally need optimism and hope to navigate this crisis, there are many whose lives have been changed forever, lives lost, mental health deteriorating, and much worse.

Why Ireland’s Criminal Justice System Needs to Rethink the Use of Prisons

Irish prisons are overcrowded, resulting in prisoners sleeping on mattresses on the floor, or tripling up in cells. Some would argue that this means we need to build more prisons. But what about considering the opposite approach – reducing the number of people we decide to lock away from the rest of society?

Ways to Celebrate Earth Day – 22nd April

Ways to Celebrate Earth Day – 22nd April

The first Earth Day in 1970 involved millions of people across the world coming together in solidarity with the natural world and is credited with launching the modern environmental movement. The 50th Earth Day will be celebrated this Wednesday the 22nd April – although this is a day usually marked with creative in-person parties, workshops and marches, there are still many ways to mark the day in the time of social distancing! Below is a selection of activities and ideas on how to celebrate Earth Day, the theme for which is ‘climate action’. 

 

 

Informative activities

1. Democrats Abroad – Gender and Climate Change

On April 21st, the eve of the 50th Anniversary celebration of Earth Day, the Democrats Abroad Global Women’s Caucus will present a virtual panel discussion on “Women and the Environment”. Tune in to hear about the many linkages between gender and climate change!

Link: https://www.democratsabroad.org/wc_earth_day_anniversary_panel_discussion

 

2. Sustainable Development Solutions Network – 24 hour webinar

This is a program divided into six sections that aims to explore the many ways in which happiness and sustainability are interconnected. With webinars ranging from issues of mental health to farming solutions for the environment to the role of universities in addressing social inequalities, this is sure to be a very informative event. 

Link: https://www.unsdsn.org/24hour-webinar

 

3. United Nations Environment Programme 

UNEP is hosting an Earth Day observance with religious and indigenous leaders from across the world. This global conversation aims to bring together diverse perspectives and lived experiences of environmental issues from people on the frontlines, and the speakers include Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim and Lyla June. 

Link: https://www.unenvironment.org/events/symposium/50th-earth-day-observance

 

4. NASA Celebrate Earth Day 2020 

NASA is producing a number of events for Earth Day; including a special edition of ‘NASA Science Live’, live interviews with astronauts on their unique perspective of earth, and many interactive challenges for all ages.  

Link: https://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/2020/earthdayathome-with-nasa/

 

 

Creative activities

1. Climate Collective NYC

Climate Collective NYC is hosting an online ‘Earth Week’ with numerous free activities. These include a ‘climate action clinic’ where you can find out what your climate personality is, an online play and a live online drawing workshop to imagine a positive climate future.   

Link: https://climatecollective.nyc/earth-dayweek-2020

 

2. Flood The Streets

Creative to the Core is hosting a 24 hour event of ‘art action’, including a virtual art show of earth-friendly art that depicts the Earth in its many forms and from a variety of perspectives. 

Link: https://www.meetup.com/Flood-the-Streets-with-ART-Sacramento/events/270036291

 

3. Wyoming Rising Film Festival 

This film festival runs online from April 17th through to April 26th. Viewers will enjoy free access to award-winning independent documentary films on nature, wildlife, social and environmental justice.This will be followed by an online Climate Solutions Workshop on Earth Day. 

Link: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/wyoming-rising-earth-day-2020-tickets-102308655944

 

4. The Great John Cage Project

4:33 is a silent composition by American experimental composer John Cage emphasising the sounds of the listener’s environment while it is performed. For this Earth Day edition, contributors from around the world share their 4:33 recordings of their environment in the Coronavirus era.

Link: https://anchor.fm/greatjohncageproject

 

 

 

Participatory activities

1. Earth Day Live

From April 22 to April 24, activists, performers, thought leaders, and artists will come together for an empowering, inspiring, and communal three day livestream mobilization. The line-up includes names like Al Gore, Jaoquin Phoenix and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and promises to be an interesting watch!

Link: https://www.earthdaylive2020.org/

2. San Diego Zoo

San Diego Zoo will be hosting a number of Earth Day activities. From webinars on the conservation work of the Zoo to livestreams of the Giant Panda and Orangutan enclosures, there will be something for everyone!

Link: https://zoo.sandiegozoo.org/earth-day

3. Sunset Tour of Nature Reserve

Il-Majjistral Nature and History Park nature reserve in Mellieha, Malta is offering a virtual tour at sunset to celebrate Earth Day. 

Link: https://www.facebook.com/events/697252231016393/

 

4. Games for Earth Day

Legends of Learning are offering a number of interactive games for free on Earth day – a particularly good way of getting children involved and interested in the celebrations! 

Link: https://www.legendsoflearning.com/earth-day-games/

 

 

Offline activities

If you have had enough of sitting at your computer (which is very understandable this far into quarantine), there are also many ways for you to celebrate earth day offline! 

 

1. Go outside 

Why not celebrate Earth Day but getting out and into nature (if possible!) – go and take a picture of your favourite flowers or do a spot of birdwatching from your home! Birdwatch Ireland has some useful tips for starting out and appreciating nature from your very doorstep: https://birdwatchireland.ie/explore-nature-at-home-bwi-garden-games/

 

2. Watch a Nature Documentary 

If you do not have any green spaces within 2km of where you live, the next best thing is exploring nature from the comfort of your couch (or bed, no judgement here). Be lulled by the dulcet tones of David Attenborough in the classics of Planet Earth or Blue Planet, or if you are in the mood for a more challenging watch, then ‘Virunga’ and ‘The Ivory Game’ are tough but very worthwhile watches on Netflix. 

 

3. Climate Action

Why not make a pledge in line with this year’s Earth Day theme, ‘climate action’. This can be anything from cutting down on your meat intake, to planting a native tree, to joining a local climate action group! 350.org has loads of ways to begin your journey of climate action in the lockdown: https://350.org/locked-down-try-organizing/.  

 

4. Unplug

To end Earth Day why not celebrate by unplugging? Try switching off by not using any electricity for a while, a la ‘earth hour’. Light some candles and enjoy some contemplative time away from the distractions of the modern world. 

For more information on Earth Day in general and the multitude of activities available visit: https://www.earthday.org/earth-day-2020/

 

 

Image source: Medium

 

 

Browse more stories below or sign up to our newsletter to receive our top news straight to your inbox!

 

 

 

The Emerald Isle? Taking a Closer Look at Dublin’s Biodiversity

With people realizing the importance of nature and green spaces during their confinement in lockdown, and it being the International Day for Biological Diversity, let’s see how Dublin city stacks up.

From post-apocalyptic scenery to post-Covid era: How will we travel tomorrow?

In this last contribution of the series “A closer look at tourism”, we’ll observe the world as we pressed pause during the lockdown, and will try to offer alternatives for a better future of tourism.

Why the UK’s Contact-Tracing App is not the Solution

Many are concerned that, upon emerging from the current crisis, a tool will have been created that enables widespread data collection on the population, or on targeted sections of the population, for surveillance. Concerns are further fed by security threats recently discovered with the UK’s beta app.

A Closer Look at Tourism: Frequently Asked Questions

Welcome to STAND’s new series: “A closer look at tourism”! We answer frequently asked questions related to unethical tourism and how the this can be dealt with.

An interview with Friends of the Earth “We need to showcase the behaviours we want to see”

STAND’s Cedric spoke to Meaghan Carmody, Head of Movement Building at Friends of the Earth Ireland, about the actions we can take for the environment during lockdown.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lCPRyRsBuNw

What Does Bernie Sander’s Exit Mean For An Imperative Green New Deal?

“Let us go forward together. The struggle continues.” This memorable tweet has since garnered close to one million likes and 122,000 retweets since Bernie Sanders typed the words on April 8, 2020; ending his campaign but not the movement.

What Does “Cruelty-free” Mean?

What Does “Cruelty-free” Mean?

“Cruelty-free” is a label given to products or activities that do not harm or kill animals and it’s an essential part of the animal rights movement. Products tested on animals are not considered cruelty-free since the tests are often painful or harmful to the animals and cause suffering and death to thousands of them each year. Lady Dowding was one of the first people to use the term cruelty-free to persuade manufacturers who produce fake furs to use the label “Beauty Without Cruelty” which later became a charity in 1959. Marcia Pearson, who founded a group called “Fashion with Compassion” popularized the term cruelty-free in the US during the 1970s.

 

In 1957, the concept of the three R’s was published in the book, “The Principle of Humane Experimental Technique” which was written by Charles Hume and W.M.S. Russell. These concepts were: Replacement, Reduction, and Refinement, all hoping to reduce the number of animals used for testing and making those tests less painful. In 1991, the European Center for Validation of Alternative Methods was established to reduce, refine or replace the use of testing animals. If it so happens that testing is unavoidable, the committee of ECVAM must approve the test and place the testing under the animal protection act which does not approve of animal testing if alternatives exist. The European Union has made it illegal to test on animals in most European countries, however, some countries like China still continue to test their products on animals by law which means that most cosmetics that are made in China are not cruelty-free. The label which represents cruelty-free products is the Leaping Bunny which applies only to products which do not use animal testing anywhere in the world and do not test on animals anywhere in the production stages.

 

 

Animal testing is currently being replaced with quicker, cheaper and more accurate methods of testing. Most labs now use humane alternatives, like a  reconstructed human epidermis which involves the use of human skin donated by cosmetic surgeons to replace the rabbit Draize skin test. The test involved applying 0.5g of the test substance on a restricted animal’s eyes or skin. The Draize skin test was one most relevant to human reactions but other methods replacing the Draize eye test is by using Vitro human tissue. These tests are more accurate in protecting people from toxic substances as well as eliminating or reducing animal testing.

 

There are thousands of companies worldwide which now offer cruelty-free products like cosmetics, personal-care products, clothing, candles, and cleaning products. The leaping bunny has been the only international third-party cruelty-free certification program since the 1990s.

 

There are many ways to research cruelty-free activist groups, one of them being Cruelty-Free International which is a website that helps you find cruelty-free brands and products as well as giving you a chance to donate towards stopping animal testing worldwide! On their website you will find a list of celebrities which support the cruelty-free movement, some of those celebrities are: 

 

 

“I am supporting cruelty-free international with its campaign to seek global ban to ensure that animals do not suffer for the sake of beauty anywhere in the world.” Paul McCartney 

 

“I am so pleased to support cruelty-free international and be a part of the global campaign to end cosmetics tests on animals.” Peter Dinklage

 

“join me in supporting cruelty-free international call to congress to bring an end to animal testing for cosmetics in the U.S.” Norman Reedus

 

“It doesn’t take a genius to know that using animals for cruel and unnecessary cosmetics tests is unjustifiable.” Mayim Bialik 

You can also find articles and studies based on animal cruelty with real statistics and real facts on their website. Cruelty-Free International states that “We believe there is no rational moral justification for using animals in experiments”, and according to their statistics, at least 115 million animals are used as test subjects each year! Another interesting fact is that the US, Japan, China, Australia, France, Canada, the UK, Germany and Brazil are the top 9 animal testing countries in the world. Unfortunately, there has not been a huge decline in animal testing since the 1990s and some countries continue to test on animals with record figures.

 

If we wish to make a difference and stop animal cruelty, we must stop buying products that are not labelled with the leaping bunny. To help you with that we have found numerous companies which are certified as cruelty-free as of 2020, and have not tested on animals during any stage of production: Elf, NYX, LUSH, TheBalm, Tarte, WetnWild, Anastasia Beverly Hills and TooFaced.

 

Brands that are not cruelty-free include Nars, Mac, Benefit, Dior, Covergirl, Max Factor, L’oreal, Bourjois, Chanel, Armani and Maybelline.

 

If you want to look into more brands that are cruelty-free you can visit: https://www.crueltyfreekitty.com/list-of-cruelty-free-brands/
And If you want more information on Animal testing and wish to donate towards the cause, visit: https://www.crueltyfreeinternational.org/what-we-do

 

 

 

Photo from freepik

 

 

Browse more stories below or sign up to our newsletter to receive our top news straight to your inbox!

 

 

 

From post-apocalyptic scenery to post-Covid era: How will we travel tomorrow?

In this last contribution of the series “A closer look at tourism”, we’ll observe the world as we pressed pause during the lockdown, and will try to offer alternatives for a better future of tourism.

Why the UK’s Contact-Tracing App is not the Solution

Many are concerned that, upon emerging from the current crisis, a tool will have been created that enables widespread data collection on the population, or on targeted sections of the population, for surveillance. Concerns are further fed by security threats recently discovered with the UK’s beta app.

A Closer Look at Tourism: Frequently Asked Questions

Welcome to STAND’s new series: “A closer look at tourism”! We answer frequently asked questions related to unethical tourism and how the this can be dealt with.

Five Stages to Freedom and the New Zealand Confusion

On Friday May 1st Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced a five stage plan for reopening Ireland after the coronavirus lockdown. This plan will go into effect on May 18th and will continuingly unlock restrictions at three week intervals if Covid-19 numbers continue to be stagnant or lessen. If Covid-19 numbers increase then Ireland may go back into lockdown as a result. The biggest take away from this is that most people are not going to have a bit of craic until stage 4 or 5.

Corporations, Human Rights and Accountability

In March of 2019, Trócaire launched their campaign for a binding treaty that aims to hold corporations accountable for breaches of human rights. I spoke with Siobhan Curran, Trócaire’s Policy and Advocacy Advisor – Human Rights and Democratic Space to find out what it’s all about and why it’s important.

‘I Want My Life Back’ – The Growing Anti-Lockdown Movements

At the beginning of April, German lawyer Beate Bahner was apprehended in her home in Heidelberg by police and brought directly to the Heidelberg psychiatric clinic. A strange story, perhaps made stranger (and indeed fodder for conspiratorial types) given her recent opposition to the stringent lockdown measures introduced by the German federal government. Is this a tale of political silencing? And why is there a growing movement to end lockdown restrictions?

Is Our Environment Experiencing a Lockdown Detox?

Is Our Environment Experiencing a Lockdown Detox?

Covid-19 has changed our world in ways none of us expected. People are losing their jobs and businesses are filing for bankruptcy, one of the most popular companies behind student travel, USIT, has recently applied for liquidation, and this is just to name a few consequences of the outbreak. However, considering all the negative impacts of Covid-19, there has been an unexpected, positive one on the environment.

 

Since educational institutions are closed and lots of work can be done online,  many are staying home and don’t use their vehicles as much, meaning the roads are practically empty. To most, this might not be a big deal. However, consider the fact that on an ordinary day, thousands of cars are on the streets and each car releases toxic fumes into the atmosphere that affect our ecosystem. According to driving test, a website that focuses on everything car-related, for every litre of diesel that a car is fueled with, 2.68 kg of CO2 are released. Petrol releases 2.31 kg and LPG around 1.51 kg. If we imagine that most adults in Ireland have a car and use diesel or petrol to travel back and forth, it makes a significant difference. 

 

Some benefits of fewer vehicles on the road include our air becoming cleaner and noise levels are heavily reduced. If you were to open your window to let some fresh air in, you will notice that the sounds of nature have replaced traffic noise, and the air feels cleaner. 

 

Many countries placed on lockdown have found that air quality is increasing. This is due to planes staying grounded as flights are being cancelled, and factories being shut down, resulting in fewer fumes entering the atmosphere. China has released some images from NASA and the European Space Agency which demonstrate the significant changes which include nitrogen dioxide pollution decreasing. 

 


 

Nitrogen dioxide is harmful because it can irritate the lungs and through inhaling the pollutant for an extended amount of time, people are risking a chance of asthma and inflammation of the lungs. Marshall Burke, a Stanford University environmental resource economist, writes on G-Feed, a blog maintained by seven scientists working on Global Food, Environment and Economic Dynamics, that the reduction in pollution has probably saved the lives of 4,000 children under the age of five and 73,000 adults over seventy in China.  “It is remarkable that both the number of deaths and the loss in life expectancy from air pollution rival the effect of tobacco smoking and are much higher than other causes of death,” physicist Jos Lelieveld from the Cyprus Institute in Nicosia stated at the time, “Air pollution exceeds malaria as a global cause of premature death by a factor of 19; it exceeds violence by a factor of 16, HIV/AIDS by a factor of 9, alcohol by a factor of 45, and drug abuse by a factor of 60.” This goes to show that air pollution does kill.

 

Similar to China, regions in the US are seeing a decline in air pollution as well. New York City scientists at Columbia University have reported that there has been a five to ten per cent drop in CO2  in New York as traffic has been reduced to thirty-five per cent of its previous state. Los Angeles, which is known for its heavy skies from air pollution is seeing great improvements also. 

 

On March 8th, Italy locked down the Northern Lombardy region and two days later that quarantine was extended to the entire country. This lockdown has had the same effect on Italy’s nitrogen dioxide in the atmosphere which leaves scientists hopeful that the improvement will become worldwide.

However, if you think that air quality is the only thing improving, prepare to be pleasantly surprised as waters are also becoming cleaner. It has been confirmed that the water in the Venice canals has become clear and odour-free for the first time anyone can remember which has brought marine life back to the city. For example, there have been rumoured dolphin visits in the canals which has not happened in years.

 

Images posted by the twitter user @FolinAlberto show that Venice canals once known for their murky waters are now crystal clear.

 

 

The pollution in the canals used to be caused by cruise ships sailing to Venice lagoon; with the absence of those ships, the water has had a chance to detox. In March, Venice would usually see almost 700,00 people arrive via cruise ships. The decline in tourism has brought back “the lagoon waters of ancient times, those of the post-war period, when it was even still possible to bathe in the waters of the canals,” according to local newspaper La Nuova di Venezia e Mestre.

 

In Ireland, Galway city is also seeing a change in the ocean. The promenade has seen a reduction in littering and waste on the beach, as well as an improvement in the ocean itself with the water being a bright and clear colour.

In spite of all the positive change that is happening at the moment, the question that needs to be asked is: will the pandemic have a lasting effect on our climate and our environmental consciousness? An analysis carried out and published by a climate website, Carbon Brief, claims that there has been a twenty-five per cent decrease in energy use and emission in China over the last few weeks and it is likely to impact China’s carbon emission this year by about one per cent.  However, from 2008 – 2009, which was right after the global financial crash, carbon emissions increased by five per cent from a boosted demand in fossil fuel. “It will depend on how long the pandemic lasts, and how widespread the slowdown is in the economy, particularly in the US. But most likely I think we will see something in the global emissions this year,” said Prof Corinne Le Quéré from the University of East Anglia. “If it lasts another three of four months, certainly we could see some reduction.” Christopher Jones, who is a lead developer of the Coolclimate Network, has said that “if we can think about how to prepare for climate change like a pandemic, maybe there will be a positive outcome to all of this.”

 

 

Photo by Ant Rozetsky on Unsplash

 

 

Browse more stories below or sign up to our newsletter to receive our top news straight to your inbox!

 

 

 

The Emerald Isle? Taking a Closer Look at Dublin’s Biodiversity

With people realizing the importance of nature and green spaces during their confinement in lockdown, and it being the International Day for Biological Diversity, let’s see how Dublin city stacks up.

From post-apocalyptic scenery to post-Covid era: How will we travel tomorrow?

In this last contribution of the series “A closer look at tourism”, we’ll observe the world as we pressed pause during the lockdown, and will try to offer alternatives for a better future of tourism.

Why the UK’s Contact-Tracing App is not the Solution

Many are concerned that, upon emerging from the current crisis, a tool will have been created that enables widespread data collection on the population, or on targeted sections of the population, for surveillance. Concerns are further fed by security threats recently discovered with the UK’s beta app.

A Closer Look at Tourism: Frequently Asked Questions

Welcome to STAND’s new series: “A closer look at tourism”! We answer frequently asked questions related to unethical tourism and how the this can be dealt with.

An interview with Friends of the Earth “We need to showcase the behaviours we want to see”

STAND’s Cedric spoke to Meaghan Carmody, Head of Movement Building at Friends of the Earth Ireland, about the actions we can take for the environment during lockdown.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lCPRyRsBuNw

What Does Bernie Sander’s Exit Mean For An Imperative Green New Deal?

“Let us go forward together. The struggle continues.” This memorable tweet has since garnered close to one million likes and 122,000 retweets since Bernie Sanders typed the words on April 8, 2020; ending his campaign but not the movement.

Airlines’ Responsibility on Climate Change

Airlines’ Responsibility on Climate Change

Aviation is one of the fastest-growing sources of greenhouse gas emissions. According to the European Commission, airlines contribute to about 3% of the EU’s total greenhouse gas emissions which doesn’t seem like a lot. However, air transport generates 600 million tonnes of CO2 a year and other factors of air travel, such as nitrogen oxides and water vapour in high atmospheric layers are estimated to have an impact even two to five times higher than that of CO2.

 

In October last year, Extinction Rebellion protested at London City Airport to raise awareness of the problem. One of the protesters, former Paralympic cyclist James Brown, glued himself to the top of a British Airways plane. Another protester managed to ground a flight to Dublin as he got up from his seat and started giving a lecture on climate change just as the Aer Lingus plane was on the runway and about to take off. The pilot had to taxi back to the gate where a throng of police escorted the man off the plane and completed a full security check of the aircraft before it could depart.

 

In order to reduce the large amount of emissions in the aviation industry, the International Air Transport Association have a cap on CO2 emissions from this year and aim to have a 50% reduction by 2050. The Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation requires all airlines to report their CO2 emissions annually.

 

Ryanair claims to be Europe’s “greenest” airline, stating that their current CO2 emissions per passenger per kilometre are 23% lower than the average of Europe’s other four major airlines, Lufthansa, IAG, Air France-KLM and EasyJet. When booking flights, customers can also make a donation to Ryanair’s climate charity partners, including First Climate and the Native Woodland Trust. However, the EU’s Transport & Environment group named Ryanair in a list of Europe’s top 10 CO2 emitters, seeing that the airline’s CO2 emissions increased by nearly half from 2013 to 2018. Earlier in February, the UK’s Advertising Standards Agency banned advertisements from Ryanair that depicted it as Europe’s lowest emissions airline and ordered the low-cost carrier to withdraw their misleading claims.

 

In reaction to aviation’s vast impact on climate change, some people have given up flying in order to offset their carbon footprint. In Sweden, the phenomenon is known as “flygskam”, or flight shame. Environmental activist Greta Thunberg refuses to fly, often travelling by rail or boat instead and over the course of last year, she has inspired many others to be more active themselves. As environmental awareness is on the rise, it comes as little surprise that Ryanair is trying to win this new kind of consumers’ favour. And they are not alone: In October last year, IAG, a multinational airline holding company which owns Aer Lingus, shared their plans to have zero net carbon emissions by 2050. In the United States, Delta Air Lines plans to invest $1 billion to lessen its environmental impact and aims to become the first-ever carbon-neutral airline.

 

Although giving up flying altogether is the most effective way to travel environmentally friendly, there are a few things for individuals to consider if air travel is necessary. According to the Guardian, day-time flights have a less negative impact on the climate than night-time flights, which is connected to the contrails caused by planes. Researchers believe that they add to the greenhouse effect by stopping heat escaping from the Earth. During the day-time, those contrails will at least reflect incoming sunlight away from the Earth, whereas in the night, that’s not possible. Another important factor is the amount of luggage brought on a flight. The more it weighs, the more energy will be used. Therefore, individuals can make an impact by simply packing just the most important things.

 

According to an Ipsos MRBI exit poll during the general election, only 6% of people said that climate change was a deciding factor in who they voted for. However, this global crisis  needs to be taken seriously by everyone and must be a priority for the new government, as it will greatly affect our future.

 

 

Photo by Jordan Sanchez on Unsplash

 

 

Browse more stories below or sign up to our newsletter to receive our top news straight to your inbox!

 

 

 

From post-apocalyptic scenery to post-Covid era: How will we travel tomorrow?

In this last contribution of the series “A closer look at tourism”, we’ll observe the world as we pressed pause during the lockdown, and will try to offer alternatives for a better future of tourism.

Why the UK’s Contact-Tracing App is not the Solution

Many are concerned that, upon emerging from the current crisis, a tool will have been created that enables widespread data collection on the population, or on targeted sections of the population, for surveillance. Concerns are further fed by security threats recently discovered with the UK’s beta app.

A Closer Look at Tourism: Frequently Asked Questions

Welcome to STAND’s new series: “A closer look at tourism”! We answer frequently asked questions related to unethical tourism and how the this can be dealt with.

Five Stages to Freedom and the New Zealand Confusion

On Friday May 1st Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced a five stage plan for reopening Ireland after the coronavirus lockdown. This plan will go into effect on May 18th and will continuingly unlock restrictions at three week intervals if Covid-19 numbers continue to be stagnant or lessen. If Covid-19 numbers increase then Ireland may go back into lockdown as a result. The biggest take away from this is that most people are not going to have a bit of craic until stage 4 or 5.

Corporations, Human Rights and Accountability

In March of 2019, Trócaire launched their campaign for a binding treaty that aims to hold corporations accountable for breaches of human rights. I spoke with Siobhan Curran, Trócaire’s Policy and Advocacy Advisor – Human Rights and Democratic Space to find out what it’s all about and why it’s important.

‘I Want My Life Back’ – The Growing Anti-Lockdown Movements

At the beginning of April, German lawyer Beate Bahner was apprehended in her home in Heidelberg by police and brought directly to the Heidelberg psychiatric clinic. A strange story, perhaps made stranger (and indeed fodder for conspiratorial types) given her recent opposition to the stringent lockdown measures introduced by the German federal government. Is this a tale of political silencing? And why is there a growing movement to end lockdown restrictions?