Earth Day 2020 and COVID-19: Why the Climate conversation must continue

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Climate Justice Sign, climate strike

Contributions by: Joseph Wilkanowski, Kate Yeo, Theresa Rose Sebastian, Ilana Zeitzer, Aman Sharma, Ayisha Siddiqa and Sofía Hernández.

Even though the world has come to a standstill, youth activists around the world continue to champion the cause of a better future, a better planet. Because we have to. 

Some may call us alarmists. Others may call us hysterical. Some may say we should be focusing all our resources on COVID-19 instead. But the reality is, just because we’re in lockdown, doesn’t mean the social and environmental issues around us have come to a halt too.

In fact the world's current situation is a preview into our future if we do not take the climate crisis seriously. COVID-19 is only the tip of the iceberg if we keep emitting CO2 at the speed and rate that we are, just like Christiana Figueres, former executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), said: “If the COVID Crisis is a threat, it is nothing compared to the exponential that climate change is. The COVID crisis is a threat to our lives, to our individual lives, Climate change is an existential threat to humanity.” 

Can you imagine a world with new viruses unknown to humanity, and pandemics 10 times worse than the one we are currently facing? At the moment we are quarantining in the comforts of our homes, but what if natural disasters destroy our homes? We are struggling to feed ourselves as grocery stores are empty and production of goods slowed down, but what happens when the crops never grow in the first place, what if the goods can never be made? Are we prepared?

The simple answer is no. That is currently happening and it will happen again if we don't act now to address the climate crisis, because it is the mother of all injustices. 

Those living in poverty are being most affected and at risk by this pandemic, but on the other hand, the arrival of the pandemic did not mean the cessation of human rights violations, war conflicts, persecutions and the effects of climate change. 
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George Zhang, a climate activist
Climate activists like George Zhang, from the US, are taking their action online due to COVID-19.

Vulnerable communities under threat

At this very moment, indigenous communities in the Amazon are under threat from floods and oil spills. Local communities in Thailand are struggling to put out forest fires. Communities are struggling with the lockdown AND still being impacted by the climate crisis. In fact, many of the communities most threatened by COVID-19 are also the most vulnerable to climate change. 

The COVID-19 has made it clear how unequal and vulnerable our society and international community is, systematically excluding populations such as migrants and refugees, LGBTQs, women, elders and people with disabilities. Those living in poverty are being most affected and at risk by this pandemic, but on the other hand, the arrival of the pandemic did not mean the cessation of human rights violations, war conflicts, persecutions and the effects of climate change. 

A statement to keep in mind, the global health crisis that we are witnessing comes to join those already in place. All of these must be treated as they are: Crises.

Which is why We The Planet is organising a global digital protest on 22 April, the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. Our campaign aims to mobilise individuals, climate activists and non climate activists, and organisations, to make individual and systemic pledges for Earth Day, because even though we are in the midst of one crisis, the climate crisis has not gone away. 

Keep the climate conversation going

Our mission is to keep the climate justice conversation going. The climate crisis is not something that only needs to be talked about, it also needs to be acted on. There’s no stopping the earth’s temperatures from rising unless we acknowledge the emergency in the first place, and come together, united to fight the climate crisis. 

The Coronavirus has shown us that we can come together and unite around a common issue. It has shown us that solidarity and direct and fast action is the only way to tackle a crisis. 

But we can see governments struggling, because they waited too long and were unprepared. This is why we simply cannot wait any longer to act on the climate crisis. We are running out of time. 

Our campaign recognises the fact that for climate justice we need both Systemic and Individual change. Without one, we cannot have the other. While we continue to drive change in our own micro acts, we have to be cautious not to over elevate individual action, at the risk of neglecting systemic change, or vice versa. 

Beyond joining us to make a climate pledge on Earth Day, what we really need is commitment to these pledges. 

Read other blogs by young climate activists on Voices of Youth

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