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On 50th anniversary of Earth Day, social distancing could be bringing people back to nature

Ellen Abbott
WRVO Public Media File Photo
A nature sanctuary along the Seneca River.

Wednesday is the 50th anniversary of the world’s largest environmental movement. While the coronavirus pandemic is overshadowing Earth Day 2020, environmental activists say it’s still a good time to reflect on how we are treating the planet. 

This isn’t how The Nature Conservancy’s Jim Howe expected to take note of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day.

“Earth Day may not be top of mind for everyone right now,” Howe said. “But I think it is a good time to reflect on the power of nature, and where we were as a planet 50 years ago, and where we want to get to on a more sustainable path.”

The Earth Day Movement began in 1970 when 20 million Americans took to the streets to demand a new way forward for the planet. It created massive change: the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act and creation of the Environmental Protection Agency. Howe said this is the kind of movement that will be needed to solve climate change, the next environmental crisis. He said there are answers to moderating rising climate temperatures.

“Electric vehicles, renewable energy, energy efficiency in our buildings,” Howe said. “We can do this. We just need the political will. We need the leadership to follow our citizens.”

And he said in a way, the coronavirus pandemic may help by bringing more people back to nature. It’s one place that hasn’t been shut down due to social distancing. Howe noted The Nature Conservancy’s preserves in upstate New York, as well as county and state lands, for the most part, are still open.

“We’re glad we can offer them as places the people can connect with nature and really escape right now,” Howe said.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.