“There are no passengers on Spaceship Earth. We are all crew.”
— Marshall McLuhan, philosopher
As far as we know, Earth is the best place in the Universe.
The search for life beyond our planet and even our solar system is ongoing, and one day we could very well make the life-changing discovery of life from another galaxy. Maybe there is some green planet in an Alpha Centauri galaxy with rich oceans and lands that support life, and maybe we’ll see it one day.
For now, though, how happy are you not to be standing on the red dirt of Mars or breathing the scalding CO2-filled atmosphere of Venus? You’re standing on Earth, breathing oxygen-rich air now filled with spring flower pollen, staring at a blue sky full of singing, flying creatures. If you wanted, you could walk somewhere and fall back into the green grass, as so many of our many terrestrial neighbors do, you could swim in the sea, or you could walk through the crunching snow on a mountain. What’s more is all the food you love came from Earth, from a system of operatic beauty and complexity where all living things feed and are fed by other living things.
Earth didn’t just let life happen. Earth is life.
Take a minute, look out your window, and appreciate that you live in a fairytale compared to the rest of the known cosmos.
We probably don’t need to tell you by this point, but The Optimist Daily likes to be the one with the solutions, not just the problems. We want to give you the emotional and educational boost to go and boldly affect change in your personal life, in society, and on the planet. On this, of all days, though, it would be disingenuous to you and disrespectful to our life-giving mother planet not to address the problems we all face.
The latest IPCC Report showed that human influence has warmed the planet at the highest rate in the last 2,000 years. There was more CO2 in the atmosphere and in higher concentrations than any other time in the last 2 million years, and there were higher concentrations of methane in the air than any time in the last 800,000 years. With this, we will irrevocably harm our mother planet if we don’t act. There will be mass extinctions and drastic weather events that will make our children’s and grandchildren’s existence almost impossible to maintain. The scientific community has gone beyond pleading to now protesting to persuade governments to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees C above pre-industrial levels.
While the situation is grave, there is always hope.
Yes, our mother is in trouble, but this planet blessed us with the means to create megacities, hadron colliders, and the Theory of Relativity. Humans have a magical ability to change the world. With that bred into our DNA, there is no problem that we can’t fix, even the ones that we caused.
What society is doing
“He that plants trees loves others beside himself.”
— Thomas Fuller
Governments and organizations the world over are rising to the challenge of the changing climate and taking measures to prepare or, hopefully, prevent the worst from happening.
California is the world’s fifth-largest economy and the largest in the United States. Its prior green vehicle regulations have rippled through the country before, and that might happen again. Recently, California unveiled its new plan to take gas-powered cars off the road and have only battery or hydrogen-powered cars sold by 2026. With any luck, this will mark a changing trend in one of the highest emissions countries and then through the rest of the world.
Some countries recognize that their original climate goals weren’t cutting it, or they could do better for the planet. Germany recently accelerated its own plans to shift to 80 percent renewable energy by 2030 and to be 100 percent by 2035. This is partially in response to the War in Ukraine and trying to become energy independent from Russia, but as the largest economy in Europe Germany stands to set an important example for the rest of the continent.
There are even countries that recognize their own rich biodiversity and the importance of preserving it as we face an uncertain time. South and Central American countries in particular have some of the most super-diverse ecosystems in the world, still brimming with undiscovered species of flora and fauna. Currently, there is a wave of legislation passing through those countries to recognize the rights of animals and nature. Ecuador just granted animals legal rights, and other nations like Peru are recognizing the importance of giving nature, wildlife, and Indigenous communities legal representation to fight against commercial interests. Australia also just added 127 species of reptiles to an international treaty to protect them from illegal trading.
Many cities are acting on their own to do their part for the world and soak up their share of emissions. Panama City, Florida has committed itself to regrowing its canopy and planting 100,000 trees in an effort called ReTreePC, to make itself a Tree City. Others are doing what they need to prepare for the change in climate, particularly for the rise of sea level. For example, New York City plans to better absorb excess water and become what is known as a Sponge City.
Societies are rising to the challenge of saving our home planet, but legislation always seems to move more slowly than tech, commerce, and culture.
What we can do
“I cannot do all the good that the world needs. But the world needs all the good that I can do.”
— Jana Stanfield, singer, songwriter, and journalist
While governments and corporations need to do their own substantial part for Earth, all major revolutions can only happen when we, the people, take action. There are many actions that we as individual citizens can take to combat climate change, and collectively we can and will make a difference, one individual at a time.
We can make a significant difference by assessing our own lives, how much energy we consume and how we could make our homes all-electric. The Optimist Daily has written at great length extolling the virtues and practicality of electric vehicles, and while we fully endorse everyone buying an electric car, this can be difficult at the moment with high demand. Buying a used electric vehicle could be an easier option that still is a major help to our mother planet.
There are simple, less expensive, and very enjoyable ways to honor Earth and make an impact as well. You could help nesting birds flock to your garden by planting a variety of local plants, building nesting boxes, and leaving nesting material like twigs and grass clippings for them to build nests. Instead of a fence around your property, you could cultivate a hedge that is beautiful, natural, and absorbs carbon dioxide.
If you’re so inclined and feel like rallying other like-minded world-changers to a cause to change our world for the better, then activism could be the route for you. Even if you’re not in a situation to buy solar panels yourself, you can support the solar industry by getting involved with solar advocacy groups or simply supporting businesses that do use solar energy. There is even a group of senior climate activists called Elders Climate Action which mobilizes this country’s significant and passionate population of senior citizens to fight climate change and leave a better world for their children and grandchildren.
The fruits of our labor
“We don’t own the planet Earth, we belong to it. And we must share it with our wildlife.”
— Steve Irwin
While we have much to do, much has already been done to be proud of and to motivate us all to keep fighting for the beautiful biodiversity and preservation of this gorgeous planet.
Conservation efforts in Scotland, as well as numerous private and public initiatives, have made great strides in re-greening the country. The forests of Scotland are the biggest they’ve been in 900 years, thanks to a concerted private and public effort to regrow their trees. Not only that, a rare Andean flower that was once thought extinct called Gasteranthus extinctus was rediscovered.
Speaking of environmental comebacks, we Optimist Daily writers have been ecstatic to find so many stories in the last few weeks about animal species returning to the world from near extinction. The ivory-billed woodpecker, previously thought to be extinct, has been rediscovered and returned to human knowledge in the forest of Louisiana. After significant conservation and relocation efforts, the brown bear population in the Pyrenees Mountains has bounced back and is projected to keep growing. The government of Australia has also seen fit to release another 80 spotted tree frogs back into the wild, believing that they have a fighting chance to play their critical role in their ecosystems again.
Even the smallest, singular victory brings enormous hope to some species, such as the case of the birth of the world’s newest Sumatran rhino in an animal sanctuary in Indonesia. This may seem like a small gain, but it is also a significant one for an endangered population of just 80 Sumatran rhinos worldwide. All life needs is a fighting chance.
With almost the whole of humanity finally on the same page about global warming, we now know what we have to do to save ourselves and the planet that gave us life, the best planet in the Universe.
On this particular Earth Day, on a year that has given us such serious warnings about the future, take the time to enjoy the natural wonder of our world but also honor it through action. Go outside, enjoy the crisp spring, play hooky and dive into the sea, plant new and indigenous plants in your garden, but also take some action to affect the world at large. Join local climate organizations, support businesses that use renewable energy, don’t shy from talking to your friends and family about climate issues, and, please, contact your representatives on important climate legislation.
The change we need is only possible if we all get involved, so please be the change you want to see in the world.
And Happy Earth Day!
“The fact is that no species has ever had such wholesale control over everything on earth, living or dead, as we now have. That lays upon us, whether we like it or not, an awesome responsibility. In our hands now lies not only our own future, but that of all other living creatures with whom we share the earth.”
— Sir David Attenborough
About the Author:
Oliver Kammeyer joined the team at The Optimist Daily in February 2022. He holds a Masters in Fine Arts from Emerson College. He loves the arts and normally writes fiction, but he now prefers to write about our environment and sustainable global development. He lives in Tucson, Arizona.