An Earth Day Gift for Mother Earth

Even during the difficult pandemic recovery, we should prioritize environmental protection. …

“This Earth Day give Mother Earth the gift of individual commitment and urge your public officials to provide necessary funds to protect her. Maybe if we apply the lessons learned from the pandemic, we can save our children’s future — and countless lives of the species we share Earth.”   – Fred Koontz, a retired conservation scientist living in the U.S. State of Washington

This Article was written and shared by Fred Koontz, a Retired wildlife conservation scientist from the State of Washington, U.S.A.

Posted April 28th, 2020 on Niagara At Large

(A Brief Foreword Note from Doug Draper at Niagara At Large –

The 50th anniversary, on April 22th, 2020, may have come and gone, but in the spirit of one wise adage; ‘Let’s make every day Earth Day,” Niagara At Large is posting this great article by a veteran conservation scientist on how we can come out of the terrible times this pandemic makes for by reshaping priorities in government, in community life and in our personal lives for a healthy and for the health of all who live on it.

So please give this article a read.  The messages Fred Koontz shares in it are as valuable to Canadians as they are to  people in his country.)

Now here is the Article from veteran conservationist Fred Koontz –

As we celebrate Earth Day, one positive outcome of the pandemic is that it might inspire some states to modernize their fish and wildlife departments, including in Washington State where I live.

Torres del Paine National Park, Chile (Photo: Fred Koontz, 2019

However, more likely is that by rushing to recover the economy, the pandemic will delay improvements. We have an opportunity to transform our state natural resource agencies’ historic environmental focus on recreation and the consumptive use of nature to a timelier goal that prioritizes protecting environmental integrity to sustain our economy, security, health and well-being.

Even during the difficult pandemic recovery, we should prioritize environmental protection.

Our misery from Covid-19 is not surprising. The pandemic likely started from someone in China eating an animal harboring coronavirus or less likely from an accidently infected virus researcher. No matter which alternative, we all share responsibility.

For decades scientists warned that consuming or carelessly handling certain wild animals was a pandemic timebomb. Better regulations in China could have prevented the outbreak, but world governments also failed to pressure China to control their unsanitary food markets, illegal wildlife trade and poor animal husbandry. Precious time also was wasted preparing our medical infrastructure for the attack we knew was coming.

A highly suspected “pandemic timebomb,” will China finally close down the wildlife market?

Does this sound familiar? It should. Same politics-and-economics-overruling-science plot, just different characters. Climate change, species extinction, toxins pollution and freshwater depletion are similar examples. Since the first Earth Day in 1970, we have celebrated many improved environmental protections, but it is apparent from the plethora of bad environmental news lately that our actions have been inadequate.

The Covid-19 nightmare will end. We will rebuild our country. The collapsed economy will require greatly reducing government and private spending; unpleasant policy choices will be hotly debated.

Ironically, the severity of the economic crisis provides an unparalleled chance to reprioritize society’s aspirations, programs and budgets. Medicare-for-all, income inequality, and public health spending undoubtedly will be rethought.

Scientists and conservationists will advocate tackling climate change and other sustainability issues threatening the planet. Realistically, entrenched partisan differences will prevent any federal attention to the environment. However, Washington State and other environmentally progressive states (e.g. California, New York, Minnesota, Oregon and Vermont) could follow a different path.

Let’s work on getting as close as we can to what we see here of our planet, on the right side

For example, Washingtonian’s value natural resources, but we cling to an outdated funding rationale centered on recreation and consumptive use of our forests, fish, game and non-living assets. During an era of climate change and species extinction, only 2% of Washington State’s budget goes to resource agencies: departments of Ecology, Fish and Wildlife, Natural Resources and State Parks and Recreation.

Budgets remain stagnant despite experts warning of a fatal disconnect between our agencies’ budgets and their existential purpose of stewarding the environment for future generations of people and all species. Our insufficient spending is visible in increasing wildfires, dying orcas, disappearing salmon, decreasing habitat and many other metrics. More hidden is the longer-term ecosystem damage, compounding daily.

Lessons learned early in the pandemic — reluctance to listen to experts, poor communication among agencies, prioritizing economic growth over health, and missing mitigation opportunities — match past failures in most state capitols when debating climate change, endangered species recovery, water depletion and many other environmental issues.

As the pandemic worsened, the greatest lesson became clear: we are all in this together. To “flatten the curve” our most altruistic behavior was required. Everyone is responsible for our collective health. We remembered also that Americans find inspiration and hope when working together.

The pandemic’s peak will fall close to the 50th anniversary of Earth Day on April 22nd. Mother Nature keeps warning: pay me now or pay me much more later.

This Earth Day let us declare that protecting the environment is the foundation for all we do and deserves highest priority. Covid-19 has been tragic, but it will be dwarfed by climate disruption, water depletion and biodiversity loss. If humankind is to see the 100th anniversary of Earth Day, we must stop reacting to each crisis, and instead be proactive in our environmental policies and investments.

The temptation in coming months will be for our state political leaders to defer environmental protection for more immediate needs. It is ironic that Washington’s Governor Inslee, who ran for President on the issue of climate change, last month to save money during the pandemic vetoed the legislature’s recent climate change initiative. Immediate needs first.

Yet, how many disasters must we endure before we understand that protecting and sustaining the environment is the key to our future economy, health, security and well-being

Washingtonians spend relatively little to protect their natural resources (Photo: Fred Koontz, 2019)

Now is the time for state governors, elected officials, civic leaders and all of us working together to re-structure government, business and everyday life to ensure a sustainable future for all. Strengthening the budgets of our natural resource agencies is a first step, but any increase in spending must be linked simultaneously with realigning their missions and workplans: less about managing recreation and consumption, and more about conserving biodiversity and ecosystems, including stewarding the non-living components like air and water that make life possible.

Needed are new organizational structures and communication networks to coordinate the work of our resource agencies, academia, legislators, non-profits and business. Nature protection in most states is a disjointed jumble: “everyone is in charge and no one is in charge.”

Moving forward, we must all pull in the same direction with an efficient division of labor. Public-private programs will be essential, as will greater linkage between state, local governments, Native American tribes, developers and private landowners. Similar to state regional alliances during the pandemic, state resource agencies need to strengthen regional alliances protecting air, biodiversity abundance, habitat, species and water.

The pandemic has reminded us about the importance of enacting proactive policy informed by science. We can not simply wish away the growing list of existential environmental problems. All of this will not be easy or cheap. Everyone must agree to cooperate: changing our daily behaviors and consumption practices, and yes, approving new taxes for environment protection.

This Earth Day give Mother Earth the gift of individual commitment and urge your public officials to provide necessary funds to protect her. Maybe if we apply the lessons learned from the pandemic, we can save our children’s future — and countless lives of the species we share Earth.

About Fred Koontz – Retired wildlife conservation scientist, Fred’s career included positions at the Wildlife Conservation Society, Wildlife Trust and Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo

Fred Koontz has a website with a wealth of information on it on environmental and conservation topics. You can visit it by clicking on – https://medium.com/@fredkoontz

Fred Koontz was good enough to send this article to Niagara At Large in response to a commentary Niagara At Large reporter Doug Draper wrote and posted on NAL on what we can do to come out of this pandemic with better plans for a healthy planet.

To read that commentary, click on – https://niagaraatlarge.com/2020/04/27/as-earth-week-2020-ends-heres-hoping-things-dont-go-back-to-normal/

NIAGARA AT LARGE encourages you to join the conversation by sharing your views on this post, along with your name (not a pseudonym), in the space immediately below the Bernie Sanders quote.

 “A Politician Thinks Of The Next Election. A Leader Thinks Of The Next Generation.” – Bernie Sanders

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