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23.04.2020 Europe

World Earth Day stresses the link between health and environment

By Zeenat Hansrod - RFI
© Jaya Bhattacharji Rose
LISTEN APR 23, 2020
© Jaya Bhattacharji Rose

As the world celebrates the 50th anniversary of Earth Day in lockdown mode, youth, activists and leaders across the world recognised that the coronavirus crisis, health and environmental threats need to be tackled hand in hand.

For World Earth Day 2020, 10-year-old Sarah Rose drew a poster which her school will later put together as a collage regrouping the work of her classmates.

Sarah Rose is in Grade 5 at Pathways School Noida in Delhi. She is currently home schooling because of lockdown measures India enforced to contain the Covid-19 epidemic.

“I made a poster with the Earth and trees because because I was inspired by the United Nations' goal to plant 7.8 billion trees,” she told RFI.

“But I also wrote 'If you want a better ENVIRONMENT' as environment also stands for everything in Nature, like plants, trees, animals and so on.”

Sarah said that she does not really need one special day to celebrate Earth Day “because on different days, my dad brings all sorts of plants home”.

The 10-year-old has been learning about renewable and non-renewable energy at school and is acutely aware of the need for a better environment.

“We should save our resources and use them wisely,” Sarah declared.

Covid-19 and pollution
India has been under lockdown since March  24th and the absence of massive car traffic, shuttered industries and halting of construction work has brought positive change towards the usual alarming level pollution.

According to India's Central Pollution Control Board, levels of PM2.5 particulate -- the most dangerous for human health – are 20 to 30 times the accepted limits.

But on April 22nd, World Earth Day, the levels of were reported to be "satisfactory".

For Sarah, the lockdown measures brought a huge change in Delhi, one of the world's most polluted city.

“People are not coming out on the roads and polluting. The air has become much cleaner,” she said.

Anumita Roy Chowdhury of the Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment agreed, “we've never really experienced clean air like this.”

But the World Meteorological Organisation warns that the global reach of the coronavirus pandemic is not enough to stop climate change.

"Covid-19 may result in a temporary reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, but it is not a substitute for sustained climate action," the World Meteorological Organisation said in a statement released on World Earth Day.

Greta, Francis and Antonio
The Swedish climate activist, Greta Thunberg, said that climate and environmental emergencies must be tackled at the same time as the coronavirus crisis

“The climate crisis is not slowing down, even in times like these,” said the 17 year old who spearheaded the Fridays for Future movements.

At the Vatican, Pope Francis made an impassioned plea for protection of the environment, saying the coronavirus pandemic had shown that challenges can be met with a global response.

For Pope Francis it is necessary for young people to "take to the streets to teach us what is obvious, that is that there will be no future for us if we destroy the environment that sustains us".

Last year, after a synod of bishops from the Amazon region, Pope Francis said he was considering adding a definition of "ecological sins" in the Roman Catholic Church's Catechism, a compendium of teachings and rules.

The United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres urged government “to turn the recovery into a real opportunity to do things right for the future”.

“The current crisis is an unprecedented wake-up call”, Guterres said in a public address where he outlined six climate-related actions.

The first one being: “as we spend huge amounts of money to recover from the coronavirus, we must deliver new jobs and businesses through a clean, green transition”.

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