Every year on April 22nd, Earth Day marks the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970 with this year marking it’s 50th anniversary. Coincidentally, the positive effects from global restrictions due to the current Coronavirus pandemic may have just given us a glimpse of how we can all play a part in the fight against climate change… with 20/20 clarity.

The following images using data from NASA’s Global Modeling and Data Assimilation team, show the dramatic impact lockdown measures have had on pollution levels.

Ground station metrics from Wuhan, where the pandemic originated, show how certain pollutants including nitrogen dioxide were at record lows during the first few months of the year. Image Source: Reuters Graphics
Similar patterns unfolded across Italy following the introduction of a nationwide lockdown on March 9. Restrictions had already been implemented in late February in some northern regions, where COVID-19 cases had surged. The industrial belt across northern Italy often experiences high levels of air pollution, but estimates show otherwise this year. Image Source: Reuters Graphics

The following video demonstrating the positive environmental impact recent restrictions have had was produced and published on YouTube by France 24 last month, with over 1.8 million views to date.

“Earth Day 1970 gave a voice to an emerging public consciousness about the state of our planet —

In the decades leading up to the first Earth Day, Americans were consuming vast amounts of leaded gas through massive and inefficient automobiles. Industry belched out smoke and sludge with little fear of the consequences from either the law or bad press. Air pollution was commonly accepted as the smell of prosperity. Until this point, mainstream America remained largely oblivious to environmental concerns and how a polluted environment threatens human health.

However, the stage was set for change with the publication of Rachel Carson’s New York Times bestseller Silent Spring in 1962. The book represented a watershed moment, selling more than 500,000 copies in 24 countries as it raised public awareness and concern for living organisms, the environment and the inextricable links between pollution and public health.” – earthday.org

Just how much impact has this movement become? Here is a timeline highlight:

1970 – The first Earth Day mobilizes 20 million Americans to call for increased protections for our planet.

1990 – Earth Day goes global, mobilizing 200 million people in 141 countries.

2000 – Earth Day leverages the power of digital media to build millions of local conversations across more than 180 countries.

2010 – Earth Day Network launches A Billion Acts of Green® and The Canopy Project. Earth Day 2010 engages 75,000 global partners in 192 countries.

2020 – Earth Day will mark 50 years with global activations that aim to mobilize a billion people worldwide for transformative action for our planet.

“Today, Earth Day is now widely recognized as the largest secular observance in the world, marked by more than a billion people every year as a day of action to change human behavior and create global, national and local policy changes. Now, the fight for a clean environment continues with increasing urgency, as the ravages of climate change become more and more apparent every day. ” – earthday.org