Digital disengagement dangers on Earth Day's 50th anniversary
2020 has forced us all to relearn how to live our lives. We have all had to learn what we cherish most, and what we have taken for granted. Those of us who reside in the U.S. have also learned what can divide us as a nation. Lockdowns are isolating and can keep us separated, but nothing has been more divisive than this year's presidential election. It may be hard to imagine bridging the divide, but maybe once this pandemic is over, we can all start focusing on aspects of life and living where we all share common ground.
We all need fresh air to breathe, fresh water to drink, combined with tolerable temperatures and habitats that provide us creature comforts. 2020 has been such a scary year for all of us with the pandemic, combined with so many out-of-control weather events and devastating wildfires. A lot of my friends, family members and acquaintances are too scared to go out and do much beyond providing for basic needs. It seems everyone these days lives in self-isolation, withdrawing from the world outside and immersing themselves in digital distractions.
Working from home, Zoom meetings and Skype: Our lives seem to have become virtual existence, instead of anything resembling normal life. From Netflix to online ordering and an app for everything, it feels like the world is becoming more digitalized by the minute. So many things that we used to enjoy have disappeared from our lives. The freedoms that we all experienced now seem part of a distant past. It is hard to believe that a mere 10 months ago everything still seemed somewhat normal, and the COVID-19 pandemic was just a small news blip from China.
COVID has impacted us all in so many similar ways, and yet we all experience the new norms differently. Most of my pain is a direct result of failed expectations and shattered dreams. I had been planning for 2020 for the last five years. I was going to use Earth Day 2020 as a launch point for my new website earthontheedge.org. 2020 is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. I remember the very first Earth Day in 1970, when I was in grade school. The scientists back then predicted extremely dire consequences by the year 2100 if we didn't change our ways.
What is truly scary to me is that many of those predictions are coming true 80 years too soon. Weather events once considered rare are becoming all too frequent. The balance of nature is out of control. Bomb cyclones, arctic warming, plastic pollution and massive hurricanes are warning signs that need to be heeded. It is natural to feel helpless to stop climate change, but maybe if the people of the world join forces, we could slow it down and buy some time to find solutions. Waiting for the world governments to do it all is pure fantasy; we all have a stake, and a responsibility, to do our part.
With regenerative farming, we may be able to begin to reverse the effects. This year I had three projects set up with local schools to teach children about invasive species removal, specifically how to remove English ivy from both ground and trees. I had these events set up for Arbor Day and Earth Day 2020. Then in March, cases of COVID-19 exploded, and all the schools closed. After that, the state government started putting the area that I live in on lockdown. At first it sent me into a tailspin of depression, and I started withdrawing from all the things I loved. After a short time, I decided it might create much more impact to show the world how much one person could accomplish out of sheer force of will and determination. This year I have taken ivy off over 1,300 trees almost single-handedly. I obtained permission to take ivy out of trees in four city parks, two county parks and one state park.
I participated in an event to plant 1,000 native species plants in an area once inundated with English Ivy. English Ivy can be ornamental in a controlled setting. But when it is unmanaged, ivy takes over entire ecosystems; it starves the native species of water, sunlight and nutrients. English-ivy removal is one thing we can all do in our own back yards to battle climate change, improve air quality, capture more carbon and help nature reclaim a more natural balance.
Too much digital interaction does not seem healthy to me. I have found ways to help nature, in a way that is safe, instead of just sitting in my house afraid to go out. There are many ways we can all help Planet Earth, whether it be by picking up a piece of plastic, putting out food for the birds, removing invasive plants or donating to a cause.
When we feel disconnected from the planet, a feeling of helplessness can begin to invade. When we find ways to connect with nature, feelings of being restricted and trapped can begin to subside. We are all in this together regardless of our political beliefs. Too many people are just passing through. Too many people are just putting in their time. A couple years back, I was still one of them.
I can tell you from personal experience, that when you help the planet breathe, it helps makes you feel better, less helpless and more connected. Digital disengagement has a twofold meaning. On one hand you're very digitally connected, and on the other hand all the real connections people need and crave are replaced with virtual interactions. Real-life experiences are replaced by binary codes lost in the endless expanse of cyberspace.
We are all connected to nature; sometimes we need to be reminded that some of the most important things in life are analog. The digital escapes should be enhancement rather than replacement of our interactions with the natural world. Trees, breathable air and drinkable water are things we all take for granted. Unless enough of us take the time to care in the now, Planet Earth will not be able to maintain the balance we all need to thrive and survive.
Join me on my quest to help the planet and show people, that we can all make a difference in our own backyards. Check out my website earthontheedge.org, send me an email or give me a call. Find out what you can do today to help make create a better future for the children of tomorrow.
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