Guest post written by Raksha Doddabele, a Dogwood Alliance intern.
One day, I want to take my children to the Smoky Mountains. We will turn over rocks to observe the wriggling critters underneath. We will plunge our feet into cool streams on hot summer days. We will hike up mountains and breathe the thinner air at the summit. We will seek shade under the sprawling foliage of deciduous trees.
Quarantine has given us a greater appreciation for the outdoors.
As restaurants and businesses closed, the sun and the grass and the water promised to melt away the gloom of quarantine. It was like returning to a childhood friend. As I jogged outside or strung up my hammock, I thought, why don’t I do this more often?
Because of the pandemic, carbon emissions are predicted to fall by 5% this year–the biggest drop on record. But such a decrease doesn’t require drastic quarantine measures. All it requires is a shift in our priorities to more sustainable practices. For example, protecting forested areas from logging activities would keep carbon out of the atmosphere and provide more of the beautiful natural spaces many of us have enjoyed so much during quarantine. Forests serve a vital role in storing carbon, which offsets the emissions produced from human activity. Additionally, reducing carbon emissions by switching to renewable energy sources like solar and wind power is crucial to limit climate change. This will diminish the risk of extreme droughts and wildfires that threaten our forests. We can’t implement these types of changes on an individual level. We need systemic changes in policies that prioritize the reduction of carbon emissions.
At a time when we will already have to make changes to the way we produce goods and the way we carry on our daily lives, it only makes sense to begin phasing in the changes to a more sustainable future. These changes don’t have to be drastic, and if we begin making them now, the future problems will be much easier to handle. Imagine if we had years to prepare for the Coronavirus pandemic rather than only weeks?
As lockdowns begin to lift across the United States, I hope we don’t forget the gift that nature gave us during this time of fear and uncertainty.
These natural spaces are at risk of disappearing unless we act now. Experts agree that we only have 10 years to reduce carbon emissions before climate change reaches a tipping point that will irreversibly alter our lives, and many people are already seeing those changes and suffering from those effects. If we don’t act, we will witness more natural disasters, food scarcity issues, and the extinction of animals that have lived alongside us for thousands of years.
I’m twenty-one years old, and I’m worried about life when I’ll be fifty. I’m worried for my future children. Will I be able to show them the diverse wildlife, the panoramic views, the meandering trails of the Smoky Mountains that I grew up with?
Or will I only be able to show them pictures?
Join the movement to protect our forests: Take the Stand4Forests pledge today!
Growing up in eastern Tennessee with the backdrop of the Smoky Mountains, Raksha has always had a strong connection with the outdoors. She is a current undergraduate at Duke University, where she is pursuing a B.S. in Biology and minor in Computer Science, which she hopes to put to good use working in wildlife conservation. Some of her favorite activities include hiking, Scuba diving, and adventuring.