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Every Day Must Be Earth Day

An Earth Worth Fighting For

Monday was the 54th Earth Day, and while the current dire state of the Climate Crisis could engender a maudlin diatribe recounting rising greenhouse gas levels, the continuing destruction of biodiversity on our planet, and rise of pollutants like plastic. There is no denying that these situations are dire and existential enough for a hundred such pieces. But such speeches seem to paralyze more than invigorate, and as I look at the sunny beautiful day outside with the birds chirping, I'd like to focus for a moment on signs of progress and reasons for hope. On Earth Day we should remember not just the urgency of our struggle for a livable planet, but the progress, woefully insufficient though it may be, we have made in the past 50 years towards sustainability. For example, in just the last 15 years electricity from solar, and wind, has fallen precipitously (66%, and 84% respectively), and in 2023 both sources, along with batteries, were less expensive than coal, nuclear and natural gas. This sea-change in energy pricing is only just beginning to be felt, but investments in new green energy projects are increasing globally, with nearly 80% of all new energy projects installed in 2023 being wind and solar. California continues the streak we mentioned last week with 100% of energy demand met from renewable energy sources for 30 of the last 38 days. In Hawaii, another state leading the way in climate adaptation, 37% of residents have solar panels on their roofs, producing 44% of the state’s renewable energy.  

The United States has finally begun paying more than lip service to environmental policy with major investments towards equitable green infrastructure through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Plan in 2021, and the Inflation Reduction Act in 2022, offering billions of dollars in clean energy funding. The Biden administration has made another recent environmental push, likely to court younger voters, by announcing $20 billion in awards for clean energy and climate solutions, and just today, an additional $7 billion was pledged by Biden in solar power grants. When people say that this administration has done more to invest in equitable climate adaptation and mitigation, it’s not just smoke. 

These actions, taken alongside other countries and world leaders mean that while the rate of greenhouse gases continues to grow it’s slowing, and global emissions will likely peak within the next few years, the the first step on the way towards lowering emissions. Our population growth is also slowing, much to the relief of the limited wild spaces and wildlife remaining.  Now, a quick reality check. While climate action and efforts towards sustainability are moving faster than ever, they aren't moving nearly fast enough. Even if current climate pledges were all met, a big if, we still would blow past over 2.7 C of warming by the end of the century, shattering the Paris Climate accord goals, bringing irreversible loss and climate destruction to the detriment of millions upon millions, to say nothing of other species. The hour is still late, and the situation dire. Despite this, I bring up the positives here not to be pollyannish or naïve but because it’s important to know that while our actions have so far been insufficient, fighting for climate action is not futile, our actions have yielded measurable results. Every species saved from extinction; every ton of avoided carbon emissions is meaningful.  

Hopeful visions of the future often seem utopian, and in this climate can seem foolish, especially when so many of our innocuous activities contribute to climate degradation. But big actions cannot be taken without some level of belief, and the world is poised for change. All the ingredients are there: the people want it, the technology and the scientific know-how are there, and the consequences are too devastating not to act.

Despite this, we know there are those throwing sand in the proverbial gears, preventing these much needed and wanted changes. We know the reason climate action remains insufficient even after 50 plus years of Earth days are because the powerful lobbying efforts of the fossil fuel industry seducing our politicians and capturing our government. These handful wealthy donors are willing to sacrifice all of us to protect their ill-gotten gains. To save the only planet we have, will take not just political, but economic organizing. We've already begun walking this path, so don't give up now!

Together we can take advantage of this election year and make sure we at least don’t lose ground in the fight for sustainability. So, join us each Tuesday, in growing solidarity, and Don't Shop on Tuesday! 

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