Earth Day – more vital now then ever

Collectively remembering and honouring our home planet is key to our survival as a species.

Sofia Regalado

If not every day of the year, Earth Day should be a time to stop and think about how present the environment is in our everyday lives, regardless of where we are. Water is bottled, our food is packaged, our cars are fueled, and plastic and paper are being constantly thrown out. On April 22nd, we should not only globally appreciate the Earth and encourage the respect it deserves, but also take time to stop and individually think about our own treatment of the environment and make a conscious effort to remember where all our daily conveniences come from.

For anyone willing to listen, the Earth has sacred and ancient stories to tell. Consumed by our rapidly globalizing and technology-driven world, we are often oblivious to the readily apparent magic and insights of nature. Day to day, we tend to overlook the most miraculous subtleties of the natural world even as they happen all around us, right outside our doors and walls. Yet despite the myriad of distractions in our fast-paced societies, nature is always there – patiently waiting for us to give it our time of day. It only takes a brief and contemplative pause; a moment away from the desk, the traffic, the media, and the texts, to remind us that our planet speaks and writes a language that is begging to be heard.

Through the crevasses of its rocks and the ridges of its mountains, the Earth offers us a glimpse into 4.5 billion years of destruction and recreation. Through the deafening rush of angry rivers and the melodic songs of lethargic streams, it speaks to us of the values in resistance and respite. Through the gentle curve of raindrops and the intricate dance of ice in snow, it reminds us to embrace all its elements, even on overcast days. Through the drumming of the ocean as it greets the land, it teaches us that beauty can arise where differences collide. Even the Sun, as it bows before the Earth in a golden salute and gives way to the Moon and the wolf, reminds us that our planet is an old being that commands tribute and respect.

Despite the Earth’s magnificence and the services it provides, somewhere along our human journey we got lost in our own brilliance and in the process, forgot how to treat the land we tread upon with the esteem it deserves. Since the dawn of the industrial revolution in the late 18th century to our present culture of production and consumption, we have certainly taken an obvious and immeasurable toll on the Earth. Unfortunately, the mass clearing of our planet’s forests has become the plague of our age. While the Earth gives us land and trees to survive, taking them away so mindlessly through our consumption and to such great lengths has come at a price.

The rate at which we are cutting down the Earth’s ancient trees for agriculture, logging, fuel and urban development is depriving millions of species from their natural habitats. Not only do trees play vital roles in regulating the planet’s atmospheric gases and keeping soils healthy, but they’re also home to eighty percent of the world’s animals. With increasingly depleted forests, these animals find themselves displaced and cannot survive. Everyday, new species and life forms are found in ecosystems throughout the world yet many are going extinct before discovery. Around the world, one and a half acres of forest are cut down per second and at this rate, up to 28,000 species are expected to become extinct by the next quarter of the century. Our disconnection from wild spaces has made many of us oblivious to the importance of animals and wildlife biodiversity. We may easily find them aesthetically pleasing, yet we often forget to appreciate them for all their purposes and the benefits they bring to the landscape.

The Carpathian Mountains of Romania are home to some of the last megafaunal species of Europe. These animals are not only intrinsically valuable, but as predators at the top of the food chain, they’re also crucial in maintaining a balanced ecosystem. Creating wilderness reserves has become essential in ensuring the survival of these animals that once roamed the land unthreatened. Perhaps the most important global question of our time is how we, as a collective entity, are responsible for the progressively decaying state of our planet and what mitigation efforts need to be taken in order to preserve what lasts of our species and resources. Today, more than ever, the failures in our relationship with the natural world are becoming apparent to a degree that can no longer be ignored. While Earth Day is as good as a time as any to remember the value of our planet and to practice giving back what we take from it, a fundamental change in our lifestyle and perception of nature is needed to move towards a more sustainable coexistence with the Earth and all species that call it home.

Sofia Regalado was raised amongst tropical flowers and birds at the bottom of a volcano in El Salvador, only minutes away from black sand beaches and the Pacific Ocean. Growing up, she traveled far and wide with her family, photographing her way across continents. She was constantly exposed to the beauty of the natural world and always fascinated by the way everything in nature was perfectly interconnected. Impassioned by conservation issues and ecology, now at 21 years old Sofia has just returned from a year of studying diverse Australian landscapes and is finishing her Environmental Science degree in the United States.