A Sense of Urgency is Only the First Step
This year’s Earth Day will be a little different than last year. Because of social distancing precautions, most of the events tied to the national environmental teach-in will have to be done remotely, with supporters engaging through virtual platforms with activities promoting ecological education and activism.
While the COVID-19 pandemic might render Earth Day 2020 a less engaging experience compared to its predecessors, it does not reduce the occasion’s importance. In fact, Earth Day is incredibly pertinent for everything the world is going through right now, and as of recent economic developments, it is taking place during an era rife with the winds of change.
Economic conservatism is often one of the biggest things standing between passionate activists and true environmental progress. Obviously, many proposals for how to combat climate change, slash emissions, or protect ecosystems are seen by many as throwing wrenches and regulations into conventional capitalism. For people profiting off of fossil fuels and carbon subsidies, most environmental prerogatives seem fiscally backwards.
A Major Shift is already Underway in Every Aspect of Life and the Economy
Right now, however, the winds of change are at hurricane strength. Monday’s oil crash saw the largest drop in crude oil value ever. For the first time, the price per barrel went under $0, and had plummeted all the way to $-37.63 by the end of the day. Although some predict that this drop is a temporary situation that will be solved with the natural economic cycle, many take it as a sign of the fossil fuel industry’s eventual collapse. If there was ever a time to investigate renewable energy as a sound investment, it would be now.
The International Renewable Energy Agency further qualifies this assertion in a recent report. In it, the Agency suggests that investing in green energy right now might be the economy’s best chance at recovery.
Because of the coronavirus, the stock market has plummeted and many people have lost their jobs. Recovering from this crash will take time and many fundamental changes in policy. The process could be expedited, even as the larger problem of climate change is improved, if people invest in renewable energy, as a largely under-tapped sector with virtually unlimited potential.
According to The Guardian’s coverage of the above mentioned report, investing in renewable energy now could add $98 trillion to the GDP by 2050, returning $3-$8 on every dollar invested today. The report also suggests that buying into renewable energy could create 42 million jobs over the next generation, as a green economy would require construction workers for new infrastructure, planners, designers, technicians, and skilled people in all new kinds of trades.
The ecological incentives of investing in renewable energy have always been there, and they always will be. Economic incentives have also been persistent and wise, for saving the world will always be more lucrative than destroying it in the long run. However, the world is in a unique state right now, with circumstances somehow rendering renewable energy potential life saving investment even in the short term.
Highlighting the need to capitalize on this economic opportunity could and should be Earth Day’s top priority. It is almost poetic that on April 22nd, 2020, fifty years after America observed its first Earth Day, now, at a time when the entire world is combatting a disease together, the very urgency and unprecedented extremes we face daily could inspire us to find the precise catalyst needed to ignite a shift toward change for the better.
Of course, many have already pointed out the ecological benefits of so many people staying at home—pollution is down, wildlife is replenishing, and the ozone is redeveloping—but these upsides are temporary. Getting people to invest in and commit to a new kind of energy promises far more longevity, and the spirit of Earth Day, could be our first best hope to save our tiny blue planet.
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