By The Herald Editorial Board
Earth Day, since its inception on April 22, 1970, has sounded a call to celebrate the natural world, recognize our impacts upon it and undertake efforts to preserve and restore it, calls that have grown in clarity and gravity as our understanding of the threat of climate change has deepened in recent decades.
The day’s challenge comes not in finding a way to mark Earth Day but in realizing how individual actions, even when seemingly insignificant — planting a tree, picking up trash, reading a book, viewing art, researching greener-energy options — can collectively add up, action-by-action, day-by-day, toward directing larger decisions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, ease global warming, save animal and plant species, and live compatibly on and with the earth.
A few Earth Day opportunities, then:
The United Nations, through its Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has assembled world scientists and leaders to study and push for actions to address climate change. A good starting place for adding to one’s understanding of the topic is found on its Climate Action webpage (tinyurl.com/UNclimatebasics), which offers an easy-to-follow explanation of global warming and climate change, its diverse impacts worldwide, its causes, solutions and the importance of action.
If you’re looking to add to your reading list, consider:
“What We Know About Climate Change,” by Kerry Emanuel, an MIT climatologist, offers a look at what’s known and what’s not known about climate change.
“The Sixth Extinction,” by Elizabeth Kolbert, in travels around the world, reflects on the impacts of climate change.
Margaret Atwood’s “The Macadam Trilogy,” uses her skills at chronicling dystopia and applies it to ecological disaster.
“Our House in on Fire: Greta Thunberg’s Call to Save the Planet,” by Jeanette Winter, offers kids and their adults Thunberg’s story of protest and climate action.
“Braiding Sweetgrass,” by Robin Wall Kimmerer, a Native American botanist, draws on her knowledge of plants and animals and their role as humanity’s oldest teachers.
Climate journalist David Wallace-Well’s “The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming,” is his 2017 New York magazine essay that describes what can be expected with every degree of warming above the 1.5 degree Celsius limit, set by the 2015 Paris Agreement.
For other suggestions, consider lists compiled by The New York Times, Aspen Ideas and Esquire.
For a more visual exploration of the world and what’s ebbing away, catch the art exhibit, “A Precarious Edge,” at Everett’s Schack Art Center at its main and upstairs galleries. Featuring the work of La Conner artists Meg Holgate and Steve Klein, the exhibit features paintings and glass works, and is joined by a second exhibition, “Exploring the Edge,” with multimedia works by Northwest painter Max Benjamin, Natalie Niblack and others, featured last month by The Herald’s environmental reporter Julie Titone.
Of particular note, catch Niblack’s “66 Birds/3°,” inspired by recent research by the National Audubon Society, which examined predicted climate change impacts of a temperature increase of 3 degrees Celsius to North America’s 544 bird species. The installation of birth portraits, accompanied by birdsong recordings, show 29 of the 66 Western Washington birds threatened with extinction at 3 degrees C. And yes, Niblack’s great gray owl is looking directly at you.
Docent-led tours will be offered Saturday by Schack and the Everett Public Library. The exhibits continue until June 3.
Snohomish County Public Utility District offers its first Energy Block Party from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the PUD headquarters, 2320 California Street, Everett. Adults can tour an electric vehicle car show and find advice about available rebates and information on at-home charging, while kids can participate in the Truckstavanga and check out the utility’s bucket trucks, digger trucks and vactor trucks as well as a fire engine and an electric bus.
Along with food trucks from Dick’s Drive-In and Ryan’s REZ-ipes, there will be children’s activities, utility information and giveaways.
“Extrapolations,” streaming on Apple TV+, charts climate change’s pressures on people, communities and nature in eight episodes, each focused during a specific year between 2037 and 2070, spanning the adulthood of children born this decade.
The storylines, characters and acting vary in quality of storytelling, but among the better episodes is the series’ third, set during 2047, which focuses on a Black rabbi, played by Daveed Diggs, who battles Miami’s rising seawaters and his own conscience to save his synagogue. At the same time he counsels a bright but already cynical girl, portrayed by Neska Rose, who is preparing for her bat mitzvah but is wrestling with the notion of a God that would allow what’s happening to her family and throughout her world.
A common theme throughout “Extrapolations” is its honest assessment of technology and its cycle of earnest promises but repeated failures to solve, mitigate or replace what is being lost or is already gone. It also, most chillingly, gets the science right, using research-supported projections and computer-generated special effects to show what global warming above 2 degrees Celsius and greater would do in communities around the world.
“It’s what will happen if we keep muddling through … the way we’re muddling through now,” said Dorothy Fortenberry, one of the show’s writers and producers at a panel discussion during Yale University Environmental Film Festival earlier this month, Bloomberg Opinion’s Faye Flam reported recently.
Broadcaster, biologist and naturalist David Attenborough, known for his self-narrated documentaries, such as “Planet Earth,” recounts his career, his travels and his observations in the 2020 documentary, “David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet,” streaming on Neftlix. While expert at portraying nature’s beauty, Attenborough doesn’t shrink from an honest accounting of what’s threatened and what’s already been lost.
“This film is my witness statement and my vision of the future,” Attenborough’s familiar tenor bids. “The story of how we came to make this, our greatest mistake, and how — if we act now — we can yet put it right.”
And because it does matter and will make a difference: Pick up some trash, plant a tree and read a book to your kids or grandkids.
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