Wednesday marked the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. Of course, this year the event had a much different feel due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Before COVID-19, places were packed with people cleaning up Oshawa together for the annual event, but on Wednesday, parks were empty and streets were bare as this year’s community cleanup was cancelled.
Public figures, however, are still encouraging residents to do their part for the planet.
Mayor Dan Carter says the city continues to have its crews out there.
“We have an opportunity to make a difference in our community. We’ve got to look after the Earth — it’s the only one that we’ve got and I’m encouraging everyone to do their little part,” said Carter.
The pandemic is having other effects on the planet as well. Traffic on the 401 looks light these days — a far cry from how we’re used to seeing Canada’s busiest highway operate.
“We’ve seen the heat maps from around the world decreased. Some parts of the world are seeing the mountains for the very first time,” said Carter.
Ontario Tech University environmental expert Dan Hoornweg says the pandemic has dramatically decreased air pollution around the world.
“COVID-19, air pollution, climate change — it doesn’t respect national borders,” said Hoornweg, a professor in the faculty of energy systems and nuclear sciences. “Since 1970, we’ve put more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than in all of the time leading up to that. By having all of us self-isolating, there’s a lot less use of oil and gasoline, diesel, so those emissions have come down.”
There’s still a long way to go in helping heal the environment, and Hoornweg says there needs to be a sense of urgency about it around the world, just like people have around the pandemic.
“Up until now, we haven’t been able to do that on climate change, and we haven’t been able to do that with things like biodiversity and protecting ecosystems. We need to use COVID-19 to develop that trust here at home and around the world because without it, it’s so difficult to tackle these big challenges,” said Hoornweg.
While COVID-19 has had a major impact on everyone’s day to day, Carter says this 50-year Earth Day anniversary is a reminder that what we do every day can impact our world.
“We got to find ways of being sure that our footprint in the world is smaller and smaller each and every year,” said Carter.