Pink dolphins stopped hiding on the coasts of Hong Kong and Macau. In Mumbai, the city was invaded by flamingos in numbers never seen before. Similar stories of wild animals strolling quietly through cities around the world made headlines as the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic kept humans locked up at home. People became more aware of the impact humans have on nature.
Fifty-two years ago, April was selected to raise awareness about the importance of preserving the ecological balance of our planet.
What began as a novel demonstration through the streets of Philadelphia and other major cities of the world has become an annual event to open people's eyes to see the damage that our actions are causing to our environment.
Moving to the present, April 22 is an urgent call to act and to counteract the effects of climate change.
"Global warming is happening because as there are higher emissions, we are putting more layers, more blankets on the Earth, so that's why the climate is tending to increase,” says Samuel Sandoval Solís, a University of California Cooperative Extension water resources specialist in UC Agriculture and Natural Resources.
Sandoval Solis adds that wildfires occur more easily and spread quickly at higher temperatures.
Rising temperatures over time are changing weather patterns and upsetting nature's usual balance. This poses many risks to humans and all other life forms on Earth. Among the most devastating effects of global warming are more frequent droughts.
Sandoval comments, "Droughts, there have always been droughts; the relationship that exists is that because the system has started to accelerate, then we are going to have them more frequently and severe."
With help from UC ANR scientists' research, even during droughts the production of fruits and vegetables has continued successfully. At the UC Desert Research Center, experts study how drip irrigation may solve drought and climate change. "It was stimulating to see," said lead author Holly Andrews, a National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellow at the University of Arizona. "Crop yields at least remained and, in some cases, increased, but water use and gas emissions decreased especially under drip irrigation."
Another effect of drought is the drying of plant material, which can fuel a wildfire. For seven years now, California has seen an increase in catastrophic fires.
"Contrary to popular belief, climate change does not produce forest fires. It promotes a greater amount of combustible material that can easily begin to burn. In 99% of cases, fires are caused by people," says Sandoval Solís.
UC ANR experts continuously analyze measures to prevent the spread of fires while creating wildfire-resilient communities. Before Europeans settled, Native Americans used "good fire" to manage forests. Rob York, a UC Cooperative Extension forest specialist who is based at Blodgett Forest Research Station, says that winter is the best season to use controlled fire.
Sabrina Drill, UC Cooperative Extension natural resources advisor, is part of a group of UC ANR researchers who have tested fire-resistant building materials and developed recommendations to create defensible space to reduce the chance of homes succumbing to flames in a wildfire and give residents enough time to escape.
"Wildfire preparedness requires YOU to take responsibility for your safety, property and pets in the event of a fire. Keep your property maintained to reduce the risk of damage during a wildfire and be fully prepared to evacuate," stated Drill.
Indian lawyer, political leader, and philosopher Mahatma Gandhi once said, "The land is not an inheritance from our parents, but a loan from our children."
Perhaps the best way to learn land management is by observing the customs of the native peoples of America. For indigenous peoples, Mother Earth is not an inert object, it is a source of life and is sacred, so one must live in harmony with her and find a balance so that it serves current and future generations.
UC ANR's California Naturalist Program offers activities through its multiple community partners that lead us to discover the importance of being one with nature regardless of whether one lives in an urban area. This group offers tools to take a more active role in conservation, education, and restoration of natural resources.
UC ANR offers vast and diverse ways to improve one's habits toward nature. Among these are the Master Gardener and California 4-H programs. They collaborate with less privileged families in urban areas and through community gardens, orchards, or plant care to show them how to coexist with nature.
At UC ANR, we are with you, and we can be partners in reducing the harmful effects of climate change. Join our experts to see the positive results of planting trees, composting waste, growing a home garden or school garden, and creating communities resilient to drought and wildfire. The planet belongs to everyone, now is the time to renew our commitment to save the planet. Global warming is everyone's responsibility. Let's do our part for its conservation.