As we recognize the 50th anniversary of Earth Day on April 22, we’re living in a completely different world than just six months ago. Last year’s climate marches and weekly school strikes for climate were historic, with millions of young people taking to the streets around the world to draw attention to the climate crisis and demand action to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Today, schools and businesses are closed, and the streets are empty—we’re sheltering in place around the world, trying to control the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic. While many are enduring physical, economic and emotional suffering during the pandemic and the resulting isolation, there are also opportunities for hope and change.

This global pause in travel and work is giving the earth a chance to breathe and remind us of her beauty and fragility. In many countries where millions die annually from causes related to air pollution, people are experiencing fresh air and blue skies for the first time in decades, and a breathtaking glimpse of the Himalayas that has not been seen for 30 years.

As we celebrate Earth Day 2020 this year, we will be meeting and learning together virtually – nationally and globally – reminding us all that we are in this together. It’s a day to consider the positive lessons and actions that we can take forward from this experience.

Here are a few opportunities for positive change and actions to create a more resourceful world:

  • Online learning: With schools and universities forced to shift to online learning, both educators and students are in the process of adapting and learning new skills. A recent article from The World Economic Forum shows that this crisis could be a catalyst for surprising innovations in education, new public-private partnerships and corporate sponsored educational resources as corporations see the imperative of an educated workforce, as well as the need to address the digital divide to ensure equal access to education.
  • Telecommuting: Many companies and their office workers may find that they can get a lot of work done just as efficiently from home. We may realize that we don’t need every employee to commute to the office every day, reducing pollution. While some types of business travel will continue to be necessary, companies may find ways to cut down on air travel, saving money and making a big dent in their carbon footprint.
  • Smarter cities: How can cities be more resilient in a post-pandemic world? In addition to changing how and where people work, another potential change is the intensification of digital infrastructure in cities. Technology and big data can play a bigger role in public health and safety.
  • Disaster preparedness: Having reliable power is even more critical during our current shelter-in-place. Grid operators also employ some of the unsung heroes of the pandemic, working around the clock and in isolation to keep the power on. Utilities are increasingly recognizing the importance of resilience and disaster preparedness with the increase in extreme natural disasters linked to climate change like hurricanes, forest fires, drought and flooding.
  • Resourcefulness: After weeks spending almost all of our time at home, we may be in for a shock when our utility bills arrive. This is a chance to learn how we can change our habits to conserve energy and water. We can also learn about programs like demand response offered by our utilities that provide incentives to reduce peak energy demand and shift time of use.

There’s no question that this experience we are living through is life changing—physically, emotionally and economically. But we can also learn from it and make positive changes to create a more resourceful world.

As we appreciate seeing the blue sky and breathing the clear fresh air this Earth Day, we can experience what’s possible and be reminded of why resourcefulness matters.

Marina Donovan
Vice President, Global Marketing and Public Affairs - Itron
Marina Donovan has more than 20 years of global technology marketing and public relations experience with a background in data security, networking and mobile. She joined Itron as vice president of global marketing and public affairs in January 2018. Prior to joining Itron, she was vice president of marketing for Silver Spring Networks.