"There are areas of the world we’d all like to see protected," writes PEOPLE's Editor in Chief Dan Wakeford

By People Staff
April 15, 2020 12:00 PM
Credit: Stephen Wilkes

Introducing Our Earth Day Special: Editor’s Letter

When the coronavirus crisis first hit, it seemed strange for us to push ahead as we’d planned with our first-ever issue dedicated to the environment. At a time when the world is dealing with a pandemic, should we be focusing on conserving resources? But days after shelter-in-place guidelines began, experts started to see something remarkable: Skies cleared in cities like Los Angeles, Chicago and Seattle as pollution plunged. Air changes in China were so dramatic they could be seen from outer space.

These are undeniable signs that changes we make in our daily lives can have a big impact. No one is proposing an overhaul as dramatic as the closures that have swept across the globe. But now there can be no doubt that collectively we can take action, and we can heal the planet.

One person who is fighting to help do that is our cover star, Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Photographed before the pandemic hit — which now seems a lifetime ago — Julia started this work by deeply educating herself and joining the board of the Natural Resources Defense Council. She’s informed and determined but also brings her incredible humor to such a serious topic. Change is possible if we work together, she says: “We can do it arms linked.”

Dan Wakeford
| Credit: Jake Chessum

It’s that spirit that inspired our section “50 Things You Should Know and Do to Help the Planet.” We called the world’s best experts, environmental heroes and passionate celebrities to pass on their wisdom. During this challenging time, take a moment to think about what you can adopt in your own life. Over the past few weeks, for the first time, I began composting, depositing all the organic kitchen waste (from all the cooking I’ve been doing at home now that we’re not eating out!) in our garden. We’ve raked the leaves, and my husband has planted hydrangeas. We both can’t wait to get outside, invite some friends over and enjoy the view.

Fire Island, New York
| Credit: Dan Wakeford

There are areas of the world we’d all like to see protected. I’m not the best photographer, but this picture, shot on my iPhone, shows mine: Fire Island in New York. I’d love to safeguard this magical, tranquil paradise, which is constantly at risk from rising sea levels. See images from top photographers below, and share your picture with #ProtectThis.

— Dan Wakeford, Editor in Chief

We teamed up with Apple to ask 10 photographers to share pictures of the things and places they want safeguarded. We hope these images — all shot on iPhones — will inspire you to do the same. Post your photo with #ProtectThis.

A Norwegian fjord
| Credit: Brigitte Lacombe

Brigitte Lacombe: “I’m a vegetarian and try to be responsible every day with the water I use,” says Lacombe, who shared this shot of a Norwegian fjord. “I would like to protect the possibility, the privilege, the freedom and the pleasure to travel, to look, to enjoy the beauty of the world.”

Moonlight Beach, California
| Credit: Djeneba Aduayom

Djeneba Aduayom: “I love to witness all the miracles and the artistry from Mother Nature,” says Aduayom, who shot this on California’s Moonlight Beach. “I can’t think of a good reason why anyone would not want to protect the earth.”

For PEOPLE’s 50 Things You Should Know and Do to Help the Planet — including advice from top climate scientists and advocates like Robert Redford, Jane Fonda and Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi — pick up the latest issue on newsstands Friday, or subscribe here.

Costa Rica
| Credit: Cass Bird

Cass Bird: “These are my kids and my partner in some tidal pools in Costa Rica,” says Bird. “We travel there twice a year. My daughter and I love to surf, and we love how simple life feels there.”

British Columbia
| Credit: Stephen Wilkes

Stephen Wilkes: “I saw this dog patiently watching or waiting for his master to come back,” says Wilkes of this moment in British Columbia. “I love this image because it evokes all the feelings I have as an animal lover. A planet without animals is not worth living on.”

Port Antonio, Jamaica
| Credit: Tyler Mitchell

Tyler Mitchell: “I snapped this in a moment of wanting to remember the landscape,” says Mitchell, recalling when he shot this in Port Antonio, Jamaica. “I remember loving how that warm light from the building I stood in and the light from the sky felt equally beautiful to me.”

Easter Island
| Credit: Ruven Afanador

Ruven Afanador: “Created centuries ago, the Moai monolithic human figures were transported — by means still unclear — to the edge of the sea to protect the island,” says Afanador, who took this photograph on remote Easter Island. “But due to global warming, the sea levels are seriously threatening them.”

| Credit: Stefan Ruiz

Stefan Ruiz: “The earth is an amazingly beautiful and diverse place, and we treat it so badly,” says Ruiz, who snapped this from a plane high above Chile. “We don’t have the right to destroy it for greed or convenience. It doesn’t belong to us. We are just passing through.”

Misan Harriman’s daughter Isabella
| Credit: Misan Harriman

Misan Harriman: “It was an easy choice to pick my daughter Isabella as the thing I want to protect most,” says Harriman. “The privilege of seeing the natural world in the manner I did as a child may well be denied to her from our own failings.”

Forest trees
| Credit: Mary Mccartney

Mary McCartney: “Trees are the earth’s lungs, and this inspires me to want to protect and appreciate them,” says McCartney, who describes this photograph as “riding between the tall forest trees, human, horse and nature.”

| Credit: Collier Schorr

Collier Schorr: “My best friend has everything [to pass the time while sheltering at home], including this giant puzzle,” says Schorr. “To stay indoors and be faced with a landscape that is already so altered is to realize what we take for granted is already so far gone.”