Pandemic punctuates importance of environment on 50th Earth Day

JMU News

by Eric Gorton


As the 50th anniversary of Earth Day is observed Wednesday, several JMU faculty members say the world’s experience with COVID-19 emphasizes the importance of environmental awareness. 

  • “What we’re dealing with today ties to the critical environmental, biological and ecological impacts that humans have been causing for generations,” said Jonathan Miles, director of the Center for the Advancement of Sustainable Energy at JMU and a professor of integrated science and technology. “We’re going to see more of this in the future, while we’re also trying to manage the impacts of more extreme weather, sea level rise, decreased biodiversity and so on.”

In cooperation with Earth Day Network, the global coordinator of the annual observation, CASE is encouraging individuals and families to take action, digitally, and has provided a page with links to information on residential energy efficiency as well as wind and solar energy. 

  • Steven Frysinger, coordinator of the environmental management program and the environmental information systems program, said, “What we might hope for is that this compels people to rethink their ‘needs’ and learn to do with less.”
  • Carole Nash, an associate professor of geography and integrated science and technology, said, "Earth Day should be a call for action that pushes us to think far beyond the images we're seeing of the clear Himalayan vistas or downtown Los Angeles, now visible because of the slow-down. The legacy of the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day should be our calling out — and changing — the structural inequalities that have resulted in the suffering experienced around the world."
  • Maria Papadakis, professor of geography and integrated science and technology, said, “What the extensive sheltering in place has revealed is the number of people who continue to suffer from severe air pollution and the systemic effects that has on their health, the vulnerability of minority communities due to environmental injustices.”
  • Bobby Whitescarver, an adjunct professor of geography and integrated science and technology, wrote in a recent editorial, "In a normal world, this would be a really big deal and we’d be gearing up for a big celebration. Earth Day helped elevate the importance of protecting our environment in a whole new way. But it’s hard to think about pollinator corridors and carbon sequestration during the COVID-19 pandemic. As I write this, thousands of people are dying, millions are unemployed, medical supplies are dwindling, and social distancing is the new norm. We will get through this and we will carry on. Cheers to Earth Day 50!”


Media contact: Eric Gorton,, 540-908-1760.


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Published: Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Last Updated: Wednesday, November 1, 2023

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