Smoke from fires in New Mexico
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Only One Earth

Jul 22, 2022

In the universe are billions of galaxies;
In our galaxy are billions of planets;
But there is #OnlyOneEarth.
Let’s take care of it.

Sometimes it feels like our world is on fire. For me, I can look outside my window and realize it feels that way, because the place I call home is actually engulfed with flames. The flames are real. The record breaking, unbearable, scorching heat is in fact real. We feel the fire because the world, at least in part, is indeed on fire.

In New Mexico, “ the Hermit’s Peak-Calf Canyon fires burned a corridor of the southern Sangre de Cristo mountains almost 45 miles long, including some of the most rugged terrain in the southwest. Hundreds of homes and over 341,000 acres were torched.” New Mexico was on fire. Fire doesn’t stop majestic New Mexico sunsets — the hues of orange and magenta, deep purples and deeper reds. Watching nature’s display, you know the earth, and all it entails, is a beautiful and wonderous marvel. Something to behold. Something to truly cherish. Then, a second later, the smell creeps in.

It’s a familiar smell, one that stings the nostrils and brings alarm. You smell the charred trees that once made up a majestic forest; you smell the plastic and the chemicals burning. You wince as you see the smoke rising over the horizon, asking yourself if this is all real. Your fear is real. The hair sticking up on your forearm is real. So are the homes that were burnt. The forests we lost. The fauna and flora which will never recover. The Mexican Gray Wolf is fighting for its entire species existence, every day, every year and when our world burns, so does the wolf’s. The rhino’s world burns. The ape’s world burns.

Two apes sit with each other

Many Fires And A Flickering Light

It’s important to acknowledge that not only is the world literally on fire, with New Mexico’s experiences being all too familiar across the world, but we also grapple with the world feeling like it is on fire because of all the abuses of human rights, restrictions on access to healthcare, and other forms of systematic racism, sexism, and oppression that have become all too familiar. One would be forgiven if they allowed themselves to be engulfed with anger, doubt, fear, sorrow…or anything else. In those moments when fires all around us seem to be getting hotter and hotter, the smoke ashier and denser, its path reaching wider and becoming more destructive — another flickering light emerges.

Across the world people are working to put out the fires, real and metaphorical. Across the world people are coming together to sow new paths in their communities. Rather than burn down the world around them or accept the ash as inevitable, people are working to restore , rejuvenate , and re-center life – looking to empower people and empower our planet. One community at a time.

Meet Dr. Hailegnaw in Ethiopia

When the world is burning, and you get the opportunity to meet people like Dr. Hailegnaw, PMC Country Director in Ethiopia, it is like that much needed rainstorm to extinguish the fire. Finally, the universe gives you clean, fresh, rain-soaked air to breathe. They put out the flames, and you can’t help but be inspired by their presence, the gifts they offer you and the world. When you learn about the work he and PMC are doing in Ethiopia, not to just transform the lives of women and girls, but all people, all living beings, including living and breathing ecosystems – one could now be forgiven if their breath is taken away, because mine was. Mine still is.

Population Media Center, with the work of people like Dr. Hailegnaw and many others, works in a way that treats the world for what it is: an interconnected, complex web, woven together in a way where sustainability isn’t disconnected from human rights. Environmental conservation isn’t a stand-alone issue. Collectively, we stand together on a foundation built on basic principles at the core of our mission. Human rights, gender equality, access to safe and affordable health care, sustainable population size, and environmental conservation are all intricately connected. They are only solvable if we work on solving them together.

This past World Environment Day, people in Ethiopia came together to address the issues important to their community, important to their country, important to our shared home, the planet earth.

“The key challenges include deforestation, soil erosion, loss of biodiversity, indoor air pollution, climate change, declines in soil fertility, and water quality.”  

Dr. Hailegnaw, PMC-Ethiopia

Partnerships Promulgate Progress

Working with the Ethiopian government, The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), The Ethiopian Clean Cooking Alliance, The International Water Management Institute, Mercy Corps, Eco-Justice Ethopia, The Frankfurt Zoological Society, The Global Green Growth Institute and many others, PMC Ethiopia helped to organize a series of events to address, learn and promote environmental sustainability and human right issues as part of World Environment Day.

Population Media Center participated in a panel discussion discussing our unique ability to tell and share stories through popular media which change behavior and discuss our track record doing this throughout the world, and in Ethiopia specifically. Additionally, PMC prepared a one-minute commercial on environmental sustainability and broadcasted this to the public through different TV channels including Fana, EBC and Addis TV – reaching millions of viewers throughout Ethiopia.

They do this type of work every day, because for them, earth day is every day and at PMC we work to change the earth for the better in every way we possibly can.

Work With Us – So We Can Work For Everyone

Our work only works when we work together. That includes partner organizations, people like you who support us however they can, and people like Dr. Hailegnaw who work for the people of his community to make our global community a better place. Amidst all the fires, the flames and the fury, PMC is proud to have people like Dr. Hailegnaw and our team in Ethiopia who take care of our earth, and everyone, and everything, who call it home.

Thankfully, there are billions of people taking care of our earth. Some of them work for and with Population Media Center. We are grateful for all those who protect our planet.

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