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  • Writer's pictureFernando Ortiz

Earth Day 2019

Polar Bear- the mascot of Climate Change

Today- April 22nd marks Earth Day. Born in 1970 after a disastrous oil spill in California that brought together hundreds of environmentalist and activist, Earth Day is a day symbolic of our natural environment, conservation, preservation and peace. Today, we face a critical time in the history of Mankind, the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) declared a few months ago that we have 12 years to take permanent and drastic action to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions (carbon dioxide and methane mostly, gases produced from fuels we use to power our buildings and in transportation such as cars, mostly) and prevent rising global temperatures. Otherwise, we will face catastrophic consequences- rising sea levels, extreme heat and changing weather patterns, food shortages, increased vector based infections and drought/flooding in many parts of the world.

For many, climate change seems invisible and far-removed from their daily lives. How many times have we heard of epidemics like dengue and zika? The California forest fires of last summer? The closing of the Lower East Side park in order to elevate it due to flooding and sea level rise? Did you know the states of New York and New Jersey are currently developing plans with the U.S Army Corps of Engineers to build massive sea walls around NY Harbor to keep water out? Do you know that extreme heat claims the lives of about 100 people (50% of which are Black statistically) in NYC. Having traveled to Jordan and the Middle East this summer I experienced and witnessed water shortages- places of the globe that are struggling with maintaining basic survival necessities. Climate Change is not a apocalyptic event or like a meteor hitting our planet- it is a slow, gradual chain of events and phenomenons, intensifying over time.

Yet, despite the scientific evidence- we continue to burn fossil fuels at ever-increasing rates, we continue to cut down trees (our biggest source of carbon capture along with oceans, Oceans which are becoming too warm and trapping too much CO2 which is creating algae blooms and becoming harder and harder to sustain aquatic life such as fish and coral reefs), we continue to dump trash EVERYWHERE, to destroy habitats for animals, to pollute our air. As Humans, we have come to rely so strongly on technology to solve all of our issues- removing us from Nature- yet if something so small like bees go extinct (which they are slowly) our entire food chain system falls. We do not see the direct connection between our environment’s health and our own. How many children do you know suffering from asthma? Suffering from water-borne infections like dengue? How many cases of cancer have you heard of recently? How many people do you know suffering from all kinds of cardiovascular, respiratory and cognitive illnesses? Do you know scientist are starting to discover links between air pollution and autism and dementia? We are not removed from Nature- we exist within it. The same things we put out into the environment, come right back into our bodies- plastic, harmful gases and metals, pesticides, etc. Do you know there is evidence of plastic within our digestive tracts? That at current rates there will be more trash than fish in the ocean by 2050? That by 2050, somewhere between ⅓-⅔ or our species will go extinct, including animals like giraffes and polar bears. Polar bear blood has been found to have fire retardants and heavy metals used in paints and products like cribs- yet polar bears are found thousands of miles up North in the Arctic region of the world, far-removed from humans.

On this Earth Day, I urge my readers to Think Globally and ACT Locally- think about the State of the Planet we live in and take local actions. Support climate and environmental-oriented legislation, say no to that plastic bag or straw, recycle better, compost more, turn off lights and switches when not home, disconnect the plugs when traveling, take those extra steps to throw the wrapper in the trash bin, plant a tree, volunteer in cleanups- any small step counts. Eat healthier, be conscious of what you are eating, breathing and seeing. Notice the environment around you- how many bottles or wrapper do you see on the ground? How many plastic bags trapped in tree branches? This is unacceptable.

Remember that one day we will no longer be here to walk and roam the Earth, yet this planet is the only true inheritance we leave our Children- a true home. So care for it, love it, protect it, keep it safe and clean.

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