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The debate over the causes of climate change has been closed. Forever.

“Pollution is still the world’s largest environmental threat to health, responsible in 2017 for an estimated 8.3 million premature deaths.”
- December 2019 report by the Global Alliance of Health and Pollution  
 

But first, a few very important and non-debatable definitions:
 
SCIENCE sci·ence
/ˈsīəns/
noun

  1. the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.
SCIENTIFIC METHOD sci·en·tif·ic meth·od
noun
  1. a method of procedure that has characterized natural science since the 17th century, consisting in systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses.
Before reading further, be sure to remember one key word from the definitions above. It is very simple: OBSERVATION.
 
You probably read the headline and quote and had a strong reaction—one way or the other. You probably thought, “Here we go again, now Appalachian Gear is weighing in.” Nope, we are not weighing in on climate science. There are already plenty of people doing that, but we do want to point out one glaring thing to stop the noise. The COVID-19 disaster has shown us in real time, and in undeniable factual and vivid form, that the human race has had a continual and significant impact on the environment. And the impact is not a positive one. It’s true that we have made great strides in environmental improvement, but we were the ones who caused the damage in the first place. We blame governments and corporations, yet we as individuals are the consumers of products and we as individuals have used plastic; we have created trash; we have walked by wrappers and bottles in the woods; we have used pesticides and herbicides; we have draped ourselves in oil—yes, polyester and nylon are oil derivatives and they are draped all over us.
 
We have built roads to some of the tallest peaks so that we don’t have to walk there.
 
Check this out:
Since COVID-19 Social Distancing and Sheltering ordinances have taken effect worldwide, the following observable environmental changes have taken place:
 
  • Coal and oil industrial activities have dropped, so carbon dioxide emissions have also decreased. [1]
  • In China, emissions fell 25% at the start of the year as people were instructed to stay at home, factories shuttered, and coal use fell by 40% at China’s six largest power plants since the last quarter of 2019. [2]
  • In Europe, satellite images show nitrogen dioxide (NO2) emissions fading away over northern Italy. A similar story is playing out in Spain and the UK. [2]
  • The waters of Venice are clean once again. [3]
  • New York's air has gotten cleaner. [3]
  • In Madrid, average NO2 levels went down by 56% from one week to the next. Compared with the same week in 2019, the reduction was 41%. [4]
 
And check this out…observable changes in the animal kingdom:
 
  • 70,000 sea turtles nested on beaches emptied by COVID-19. [5,6,7]
  • As coronavirus wipes out tourism, wildlife rules Yosemite again. [8]
 
And yet we want to deny that we have had a detrimental effect on the environment? We are observing in real time that the environment is bouncing back almost immediately as the global human footprint temporarily recedes.
 
This is important because we can all understand and agree that we have a significant impact on the Earth without having to frame it in a political way.
 
Here at Appalachian Gear Company, the activities we love are activities that involve nature and adventure. As outdoor lifestyle lovers, we all have a responsibility to lead by example. First and foremost, we have to follow Leave No Trace Principles, and we have to teach others the importance of doing so. We also have to realize that as backpacking, climbing, paddling, skiing, and outdoor adventure-seeking become more popular, we are putting more and more pressure on the natural resources we love: state parks, national parks, remote trails, and waterways. As a result, we all have to find ways to offset our footprint.
 
“If everybody does a little, no one has to do a lot.”
 
A friend of mine, Frank Deal, an Eagle Scout, outdoor lover, and respected businessman, has always said that. And it’s true. The fact is that people are always looking for some powerful force or large organization to deliver the solution when the solution lies with us. We all have to do a little. If millions of people do a little, it adds up. Look at people like Steven Reinhold with his #trashtag initiative. He leads by example and guess what—it has caught fire. It really works.
 
We have to continue the fight against COVID with all of the safeguards we are currently abiding by, but in the future, we can’t just all stay in our homes in order to help the environment. We have to live our lives.
 
 We are simply trying to say:
STOP ARGUING OVER IT AND START DOING SOMETHING ABOUT IT.

The evidence is clear, we have a significant and destructive effect on the global environment. The solution starts with individuals. Individuals have to make the choice to lessen their impact. And it is difficult for 7 billion people to walk in lockstep, but we have to start somewhere. We can’t wait for governments to act. Governments are large, unwieldy, and slow to change.
 
WE CAN affect how big corporations deal with us because we are the consumers.
 
WE CAN demand products that are friendlier to the environment.
 
But remember—we can’t just blame corporations, because we are the ones who have consumed the damaging products they have made.
 
WE have the power.
Contributors: John Gage, Suzanne Hermann, Jane Hood
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