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10 things we learned about Earth since the last Earth Day

10 things we learned about Earth since the last Earth Day

The secret to wombat poop, how skies turn orange, and what a cold ocean blob could mean for the climate.

This story is part of Down to Earth, a new Vox reporting initiative on the science, politics, and economics of the biodiversity crisis.

This time last April, on the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, the world was coming to grips with the isolation of quarantine and the economic and travel slowdowns that defined the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. Even now, with the rollout of vaccines, the virus continues to affect our daily lives. And the toll keeps growing: 3 million dead and more than 140 million cases worldwide.

If anything, the worst public health crisis in a century has brought our understanding of our planet, and our place in the fragile yet resilient web of life throughout it, into stark relief.

Amid so much grief and loss and uncertainty, the biodiversity crisis paced ahead over the past year, becoming a much bigger theme on the world stage. The climate crisis worsened, too. Wildfires blazed. Ecosystems became even more fouled up than they already were.

At the same time, the marked reduction in human activity spurred by the pandemic — what some experts have dubbed the “Anthropause” — has afforded scientists and researchers opportunities to observe the natural world like never before. Coinciding with these unique observational windows has been an increase in attention on Indigenous knowledge and land stewardship as a way forward in combating ecological catastrophe.

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