No one imagined the first Earth Day in 1970, that fifty years later the event would catch us in the middle of one of the greatest crises that humanity has ever experienced, besieged by a virus that has forced us to shut ourselves away and to carefully rethink the near future.
Ironically, the tragic situation caused by COVID-19 has brought relief to the planet´s coasts and forests, to endangered animals and to big city skies, which after several weeks of confinement, with reduced carbon emissions by industries, airplanes, and land transport of all kinds, appear clearer all over the world.
It is surprising to see that in different parts of the world the most diverse species, cornered by human beings, are now moving peacefully along roads and urban sites that were once their natural habitat.
Researchers are now exploring the link between pollution and particle retention in the atmosphere, which is becoming increasingly dangerous where pollution concentrates in different seasons. They are even exploring the connection between millions of people who have been exposed to unclean air over the years and the virulence of a disease that targets the lungs.
Looking back, between Earth Day in April 2019 and this last Earth Day, the balance is shocking.
Even if the new strain of coronavirus had not swept across continents as it has since last February, this year's Earth Day reflections would have had a grim connotation. In 2019, one of the world's most disheartening events was taking place: a fire that swept through more than 2,4 million acres in Australia, killing more than a hundred people and more than a billion animals. A few months earlier, fires destroyed large areas of the Amazon rainforest triggering a catastrophe in Brazil and many regions in Bolivia and Paraguay.
Although the first intentional fires appeared in the Amazon, seeking to give way to livestock and agricultural projects, the truth is that nature, the abnormally dry terrain, and the high temperatures, contributed to a real ecological massacre. Forest fires also affected many European countries last year, and it is impossible to forget the heartbreaking scenes in California last October.
The COVID-19 virus is today humanity's greatest concern. But sea warming does not anticipate a nice summer for the countries in the northern hemisphere. As for Puerto Rico, it looks like we will have to match preventive measures against the pandemic, with preparedness for the hurricane season starting in just over a month.
Even if the government's efforts are focused on essential health strategies, we must not lose sight of the vulnerabilities of our power grid, and those houses still damaged by Hurricane Maria in 2017.
We must ask ourselves if there is still room for hope for the planet in these difficult times. There is, without a doubt. The lesson of the COVID-19 pandemic is a warning that reached all of us, and that has represented great collective sacrifices, beyond political differences and economic or social differences.
Recycling, energy sustainability, control of emissions that affect cities with harmful clouds - and where viruses are trapped, ready to be breathed in by citizens - have to be contained by an increasingly vigilant global population.
Honoring the planet and celebrating its Day is an increasingly arduous task, which is going to demand greater sacrifices in the future. Embracing them is an unavoidable commitment to our children and grandchildren.