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Dear Earth, I’m sorry it took a pandemic for me to care about you

I have never been eco-conscious.

Whenever I hear “reduce your carbon footprint!” on the news, I’d roll my eyes and think, I’m just one person. Will I really make a difference? 

Like every other global issue that makes the news, climate change has become just another opportunity for politicians to hold a bipartisan screaming match.

I don’t need some bureaucrat sitting in his mansion on a hill to tell me how to live my life. 

But then the pandemic infiltrated 2020.

With the world under lockdown, I found myself stuck at home with nothing to do but stare at the walls. As April rolled by and flowers bloomed, the one thing I had to look forward to in my static days was my daily walk around the block. Because the hectic pace of the world had come to a screeching halt, I wasn’t just squeezing these walks into my busy schedule to convince myself that I’d exercised enough and therefore earned the right to laze in bed the rest of the night.

In fact, these walks weren’t about exercise at all anymore, but escaping my house to change my surroundings.

Pink and white flowers dotted the golf course that’s tucked in the middle of my neighborhood. Neighbors who would otherwise be at work languished in their green, front yards, waving at me as I strolled by. Birds and squirrels frolicked carelessly in the street, the pavement untouched by passing vehicles. 

It sounds like a scene from Snow White, but for someone who rarely spent time outside and didn’t appreciate nature up until then, that’s what it felt like. 

And if I ever passed a crushed mini bottle of Tito’s or an empty Big Gulp laying on its side in the grass, I’d glare at it, thinking, who’s the jerk that left this

Being eco-conscious is as simple as appreciating nature, which has come under attack with the rise in climate change. The Earth is always fluctuating, so whether you believe in human-influenced climate change or not, it’s impossible to ignore the weather crises people have suffered in recent years, like the wildfires in California, the dust storms in Mexico, and the hurricanes in Texas and along the East Coast.
When natural disasters born of climate change hit the earth,
it usually affects already vulnerable populations the most while the big guys (those in power at the top of single-use plastic companies, oil giants, and other fossil fuel companies) remain untouched.

This is what makes climate change not just an earth issue, but a social justice issue.

It sounds like a scene from Snow White, but for someone who rarely spent time outside and didn’t appreciate nature up until then, that’s what it felt like.

These natural disasters only make life worse when they hit a world crippled by a pandemic. In impoverished populations around the world, where people are already struggling to access medical care, vaccines, and cope with social distancing methods, living sustainably isn’t always a priority.

But organizations like Greenpeace and the Global Footprint Network have researched, advocated, and acted on climate change issues to bring to light the harm in plastics produced by large companies like Coca-Cola, Nestle, and PepsiCo. These companies contribute to single-use plastic, the kind we see polluting our oceans and killing marine life. 

So why does our green thumb matter, when global companies produce waste and toxins by the hour? 

Only 2% of plastic waste is recycled enough to benefit the planet. Ninety-nine percent of plastic comes from fossil fuels. If companies, and everyone in the world who is able to, made a commitment to reducing their plastic consumption (or you can start with theseways you can help the earth!) this major pollutant can vanish over time. 

Despite these movements gaining a worldwide presence and highlighting the issues faced by a fragile Earth, behemoth companies are still putting profit and growth over the wellness of our planet. 

Recently, Japan announced that it will release toxic water from the Fukushima Power Plant into the ocean. The project, which will take decades to accomplish, will release about 1.25 million tons of water into the ocean. Just when environmental activists thought that the climate crisis couldn’t get any worse, a global power like Japan will directly pollute our ocean. Fisheries and other marine businesses will have serious economic impacts. Greenpeace Japan said in a statement that this decision “ignores human rights and international maritime law.” 

Do you see why the environment, and living an eco-conscious life, is more important than ever? But solutions are attainable.

This Earth Day, I know that I’ll be thinking about how my footprint affects my environment. You can too, and it doesn’t have to be so doom and gloom! 

NASA’s #ConnectedByEarth is a four-day event the week of Earth Day, celebrating our planet, teaching about climate change, and opening the conversation without all the partisan bickering. 

This is perfect for Earth Day because climate change is something that does influence everyone, whether we know it or not. The pandemic forced me to appreciate the world around me.

Now when I take my walks, I hesitate before flicking a wad of gum onto the pavement, or haphazardly flinging my water bottle into a trash can when a recycling bin isn’t handy. From natural disasters to the very food we eat, when the Earth suffers, we all suffer. 

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By Laurie Melchionne

Laurie Melchionne is the editor in chief at The Argo, Stockton University's independent student newspaper. Laurie majors in Literature with a double minor in Journalism and Digital Literacy/Multimedia Design. With a concentration in creative writing, Laurie loves all things editorial and communications, and believes in people sharing their voices through the written word.