Another year, another Earth Day to add to the 50 years of environmental successes since the first was celebrated in 1970. Over the decades, momentum behind environmental conservation has ebbed and flowed, but each year has brought at least some signs of environmental progress, somewhere in the world. The pictures here symbolize that hopeful counterpoint—at the rate of one win per year—to the mounting challenges.
To mark this year’s anniversary, we note the clean skies the world experienced as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. As people holed up at home and vehicles vacated the roads, annual global energy-related emissions fell 5.8 percent, more than in any year since WWII, according to the International Energy Agency.
The cleaner air was just one of the things about this strange and terrible year that made many people think harder about how humans manage the global environment—and about the possibility and urgent need of doing better.