On April 22, 2020, the 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day, I was fortunate to participate in a panel discussion with several wonderful UWGB colleagues and Bill Davis from the River Alliance of Wisconsin.
Dr. Kevin Fermanich moderated, with assistance from John Arendt. The topics are briefly summarized here, with approximate times for each part noted in parentheses:
- Dr. Michael Draney, “My life with Earth Day” (00:30 to 08:30) — I was 2 ½ years old during the first Earth Day in 1970 so Earth Day and I have gone through life together. I want to reflect on how it’s doing as we enter our fifth decade together.
- Dr. Vicki Medland, “Is nature slipping away? ” (08:30 to 16:30) — Earth Day was in part a response to an environment that the organizers no longer recognized. Today, we are shocked by what seems to be a sudden and massive loss of biodiversity and natural landscapes. Why do we not notice these massive changes to our environment?
- Dr. David Voelker, “Earth Day 2020 in Perspective” (16:50 to 27:00)– How can we understand the 50th Earth Day and the environmental movement that it helped launch in historical perspective, and in light of the Covid-19 pandemic?
- Bill Davis, “A New Water Agenda for Wisconsin” (31:50 to 39:20) — What would a system look like that could achieve our human health and ecology goal regarding water?
In my response to a question from Kevin Fermanich (at about 50:00 to 53:00 in the recording), I referred to the shared experience of the Covid-19 pandemic. I do think that the pandemic is affecting just about all Americans and most people around the world, whether directly or indirectly. I’d like to emphasize, however, that the pandemic is not affecting all people equally, or in the same ways. In many U.S. cities, for example, African Americans (especially men) are dying disproportionately, and that’s just one example of how the pandemic reflects and compounds existing social and economic inequalities. (For more on this topic, see this column by Owen Jones at The Guardian.)