As we reflect on the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, I have long believed that people often will not act until there is a crisis. The challenge I have found with climate change and biodiversity loss is that the danger often feels all too distant. The coronavirus, by contrast, has shown us the true nature of a global emergency along with the drastic measures we must take and the urgency with which we must act. It has also shown us that it is indeed possible to find and scale up global solutions when we agree on a higher, common purpose. Despite the challenges, we are also seeing the very best of the human spirit, ingenuity and collaboration as we reflect on what we value most.
Equally, the slowdown of human and industrial activity has shown just how quickly the Earth can heal itself when we let it. We need only look to the improved air quality in some of the world’s major cities and the return of wildlife to our communities and waterways. Air, water, soil and landscapes are vital to human health and well-being. Biodiversity, the incredible interconnectedness of plant, animal and insect life, which we are rapidly destroying, holds insights and solutions that we have yet to discover; its protection and genuinely sustainable management is vital to our survival as a human species. It is, therefore, increasingly clear that when we care for our planet we fundamentally care for ourselves.
The parallels between the human and the planetary condition in the coronavirus are quite clear. If we look at the planet as if it were a patient, we can see that our activities have been damaging her immune system and she has been struggling to breathe and thrive due to the strain we have put on her vital organs. To treat her we need to restore balance and put Nature back at the centre of the circle. To achieve this we must: act for health and well-being; understand Nature’s patterns and cycles; recognize the value of diversity, unity and the interdependence of all living things; consider the importance of innovation and adaptation; and invest in Nature-based solutions to help stimulate a more circular bioeconomy that gives back to Nature as much as we take from her.
I can only hope that as this current crisis passes we are able to reflect on, and shape, the type of world we want for ourselves and for future generations. As we move from rescue to recovery, we have a unique window of opportunity to learn lessons and position ourselves on a more sustainable path. Rarely do we have the opportunity to pause, reflect and reset our trajectory. I would encourage us all to reimagine the world we want and use all the levers we have at our disposal, knowing that each and every one one of us has a vital role to play.
For fifty years, since the very first Earth Day, I have dedicated a large part of my life to championing more balanced sustainable approaches whether in farming, forestry, fisheries, urban planning or corporate social responsibility. But as we look to shape the next fifty years, I very much need your help. To reflect and inspire the world to action, while aiming for a green recovery, I would ask you to join me by sharing your vision for a more sustainable future (socially, environmentally and economically) using the hashtag #ReimagineReset. Together, I am confident that we can use this crisis to reset our course by putting people and planet first.