"Now is the right time to rethink what we do to the planet"

Young climate activist from Armenia - on a glimpse of hope amid anxiety and health fears

Vardan Ghukasyan
Vardam in a health mask
UNICEF/2020/Armenia
22 April 2020

Day 23.

I wake up not from my alarm clock buzzing as I used to before, but from a Skype call from my biology teacher, and rush to the bathroom to wash myself. Brushing my teeth, I hear about chromosomal mutations and the driving forces behind evolution. And so the day begins.As before, I try to finish my lessons as soon as possible in order to meet my friends and finally beat Artur in our favorite computer game. But considering my chances of leaving the house, I realize that I have to confine myself at home and come up with interesting ways to spend my free time. I come to the conclusion that this is the perfect opportunity for self-development. Hence, I pick a new book. This has usually helped me forget my thoughts about finding an excuse to leave the house these past two weeks.

Study area
UNICEF/2020/Armenia
Vardan’s everyday study area at home during the COVID-19 quarantine.

I also quickly surf the web and my social media accounts to see what others are talking about. I follow environmentalists in other countries, and it warms my heart to see a growing trend of information on the Internet that, despite the virus spreading around aggressively, despite people losing their dear ones to this pandemic, despite lifeless streets, nostalgia and anxiety, our planet seems to be in a self-healing process. 🌎

To sum it up, so far:

✅ According to the Ministry of Ecology and Environment of China, the number of days with high air quality has increased by 21.5 percent.

✅ NASA's satellite images show an incredible reduction in nitrogen dioxide. The clouds created by this toxic gas emitted from power plants, cars and industrial plants have almost disappeared in a significant part of China. The same is true for CO2.

✅ China is the world's top CO2 emitter, accounting for 30% of global emissions. Carbon dioxide emissions have now dropped by 25 percent.

✅ The sale of oil, coal and other fuels has sharply reduced in the world, including up to 70 percent in China.

✅ Due to the reduction of aircraft flights, the atmosphere now seems to be free from heavy pollution.


❌ But experts also warn us that if emissions resume again, after a few months’ pause, the ecosystem will face a serious threat of collapse. This is a serious issue that we need to think about now and not later. We need to find ways not to let this happen to us.

Vardan and his UPSHIFT Armenia team
UNICEF Armenia/2019/Rejon Sanchez
Vardan and his UPSHIFT Armenia team near Gyumri river after cleaning the area from garbage and netting the river to prevent further contamination.

It reminds me of an old story.

The Earth meets another planet. “How are you?” asks the Earth.

“Excellent, brother!” replies the other planet. “I am healthy. My air is clean. Everything is green on my face. My waters are clear. Animals and plants live in peace and make me even more beautiful. What about you?”

“Unfortunately, I cannot say the same. I am being tortured. Large holes are being dug on my face. My forests are being cut down. My air is polluted. My oceans, rivers and lakes are drowned in garbage. My animals are being hunted and killed.”

The other planet gasps in surprise, “Show me who is torturing you like this?”

The Earth points at human beings, and the other planet replies with a laughter, “Oh, there were some of those on me too. I just shook them off...”These days, when it seems that even homo sapiens are on the verge of extinction, my mind is strangely more alert. We should finally overthink what we are actually doing to the Earth - our own habitat.

"Who will give us clean water to drink when we pollute our waters and consume it mercilessly?"

Just think about it! Who will give us clean water to drink when we pollute our waters and consume it mercilessly? Have you ever wondered where clean water comes from? 💧 Do you know how many tons of plastic and garbage are dumped into the World Ocean every day? 🌊

Or, do you know how many million years the formation of a centimeter of soil takes?

Have you ever thought that we actually owe our lives to the air we breathe and the trees in our community? 🏡🌬

And what do you think, why did the polar bears suddenly decide to die in the North Pole? Why do the seabirds die from oil pollution? Why are other beautiful animals disappearing? Of all of the places, why do we find plastic and polyethylene in the digestive tract of fish and birds?

All of these questions point to humankind. Each and everyone of us is responsible for this, as well as for our collective future. On this Earth Day, I ask you to think about this. Because if not now, if not today, then when?

Vardan does homework
UNICEF/2020/Armenia
Vardan does his homework at home during the COVID-19 quarantine.

We must take steps to save mother nature. And here are a few easy steps for you to start from:

- Do not drop litter in the street, into the river or in green areas. 🏞

- Try to avoid using plastic bags as much as possible, instead make a collection of your own cloth bags.

- Get a bike and use it for nearby places. 🚲

- Try to reduce bath time by 3 minutes. 🛀

- Close the lid when cooking.

- Use paper as efficiently as possible around the house, at school or work. Hand it over for recycling. 📜📚

- Reuse and reduce plastic items in your household.

 

The list is much longer than this. ♻️ More importantly, you need to make the first step now. Now is the time to reconsider your behavior and lifestyle at home, in the community and the world. ⏰

Later on, when this pandemic is hopefully over and the streets are filled with cars and busy people again, the routine and daily struggles will carry our thoughts away and makes us forget.

And one day, the Earth might indeed decide to shake us all off, if we do not change our attitudes toward the environment and our climate now.

Stay home, stay healthy for there is a long To-Do list in front of us.