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Earth Day 50, Under Lockdown

Richard Heinberg

I really want to end on a hopeful note, so here goes. It doesn’t have to be this way. We’re perfectly capable of increasing our happiness without piling on more environmental harms. Tired old promises about green growth won’t get us there. What we need instead is a collective change of heart and mind that leads to fundamental shifts in institutions and norms, prioritizing well-being and life satisfaction over ever-more consumption—just as we’re prioritizing health over economic activity by quarantining ourselves during the pandemic. The fact that we’ve put off that shift for 50 years doesn’t mean we have to continue doing so. Maybe the pandemic, along with the resulting temporary shuttering of travel and commerce, is an opportunity to rethink and reboot both our individual lives and our collective ways of being on this precious planet. That would make this Earth Day a truly meaningful occasion.