Garden of Eyewire: Mother Earth Marathon

Blue Marble, Eyewire, citizen science, NASA, botany, Garden of Eyewire, ecology

Needless to say, humans now live in a difficult time with relation to plant life. The scientific evidence has been clear for decades, and most of all nowadays: while it’s possible for humans to coexist beneficially with plants and the rest of life on Earth, our own species has succeeded too well at making use of the planet’s resources. Our relationship with plants has been disrupted in various ways. Collectively, our species is putting more carbon into the air than any available plants can convert to oxygen, and those same plants are often being removed faster than they can reproduce. Pollinators are being killed off by pesticides, making our food supplies ironically harder to grow; and habitat destruction is forcing disease-carrying animals closer to human populations, making pandemics like COVID-19 more probable as time goes on. And these are only a few of the ecological problems we need to confront across the globe.

This can be sad and scary to think about, but this is also what scientific inquiry has shown us! It would be so much more troubling if we didn’t know why the world’s ecosystems seemed so out of balance. Because we know what the problems are, many of the solutions are right in front of us.

Here are just a few of the things each of us can do to help out in this fight for our beloved green planet. Some are individual changes: each of us has different abilities and needs, but we can still do what’s within our power to live in better harmony with the Earth and set an example for others to follow. Some are systemic changes: most carbon emissions, deforestation, and similar problems are caused by particular industries and socioeconomic patterns, which need to be transformed and restructured. Which of these things do you think you can try, if you aren’t doing them already?

  • Travel green. If these options are realistic for you, travel short distances by foot or bike, and favor public transit over individual cars. Taking electric vehicles is better than vehicles with combustion engines. And any vehicle at all is better than a plane! Save flights for time-sensitive, critical trips.
  • Eat green. Favor plants over meat or dairy, and choose plants that are sustainably grown instead of factory-farmed. You don’t have to go 100% vegetarian or learn how to forage (although foraging is fun!)— just learn about which plant food products have lower carbon footprints, are produced under more ethical working conditions, and don’t contribute as much to soil degradation and deforestation.
  • Make your home green. If you put solar panels on your property, you’ll not just make a tiny contribution to the carbon cycle, you’ll also save yourself a bunch of money. If you plant more flowering trees and smaller plants on your property, you’ll help your local ecosystem and restore pollinator species. Bonus points if you can set up a beehive!
  • Further carbon footprint reductions: turn your lights off when you’re not in a room, install compact fluorescents and LEDs instead of incandescents, give up that Bitcoin mining habit (it’s a huge electricity hog!), run your laundry on cold water cycles, minimize single-use plastics, and invest in high-quality, durable clothes instead of “fast fashion.”
  • Citizen science projects. There are tons for tackling climate change! Some relate more to plants, some to animals, some to other things, but all of them are noble.
  • Get your elected officials’ attention about subsidizing and requiring sustainable energy sources like solar and wind power. No electric vehicle is carbon-neutral if it pulls from a coal-powered electrical grid!
  • Try to change your and others’ thinking around what economic success means. Should it really be endless growth and maximum productivity? That’s what forces businesses to rely on quick and dirty tactics like air travel, clearing endless swaths of land, using dangerous pesticides, and extracting natural resources at an unsustainable rate.
  • Push for changes in your community. Some people can’t “re-wild” their property because homeowner associations or zoning requirements demand having a pristine lawn with grass and, well, nothing else. Bringing an environmental focus to HOAs and local politics can help bring housing developments into tune with healthy ecology.
  • Put pressure on the main emissions producers. The wealthiest 10% of humans produce 50% of our emissions. If you can change your own habits a bit, why can’t they?
  • Most of all: talk kindly but seriously about climate change, deforestation, and other sustainability challenges with everyone you know! Some people still don’t know the scope of what we’re dealing with. Every conversation you can have with a friend or family member will help spread the word and bring people together in solidarity for the love of Mother Earth.

We’re going to take 24 hours to think about this, and starting at 8:00 AM EDT on 5/27, you will also have those 24 hours to complete one or more cells! It’s a Mother Earth Marathon. Bonus & cell renaming information can be found in your in-game notifications.

Swag (generously sponsored by @susi): The top player (defined by number of points earned during the marathon time period) will win their choice of a mug or notebook! Also, among the top 25% of players, 2 players will each be raffled their choice of a mug or notebook, and 3 more players will be raffled the choice of sticker or magnet.