Earth Day was created 50 years ago to highlight the harm being done to our planet and to fight for a clean, healthy environment. Today, the success of our cause is more urgent than ever. In the midst of this deadly pandemic, the dangerous environmental policies coming out of Washington will cost lives.
COVID-19 is a deadly illness that wreaks havoc on victims’ respiratory systems, but Donald Trump is continuing to prioritize the profits of corporate polluters over America’s public health. In just the last few weeks, Trump has rolled back regulations to reduce harmful emissions from cars and toxins from power plants, moved to make it harder to use sound science in policymaking, advocated for a bailout for the fossil fuel industry rather than supporting workers, and used this pandemic as an excuse to let polluters disregard regulations meant to keep us safe and healthy.
His actions are indefensible and will hurt a lot of people — especially communities of color.
The environment we live in cannot be disentangled from the rest of our lives. That is why we must speak the truth that environmental racism has compounded the systemic disparities — educational, income, wealth, voting participation, and health — that we see. All of which set the stage for Black people being disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.
For generations, pollution has been dumped in Black communities, which has contributed to higher rates of chronic health conditions like heart and lung disease. In fact, race is the number-one indicator of where to find toxic and polluting facilities in the United States and Black Americans are exposed to higher levels of air pollution than white Americans regardless of wealth.
This pandemic is laying bare the realities of health, economic, and environmental injustices that persist and reveals what our future holds if we don’t boldly and equitably address the climate crisis.
This Earth Day, we have the opportunity to fight climate change, address disparities, and empower communities that have been ignored for generations. While the threat ahead is great, so is our opportunity. There are good ideas in Congress already; we just need to summon the political courage to see them through.
We can electrify transportation, build more resilient communities, and create a clean economy for all. I’ve been proud to partner with leaders like Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Congressman Dan Kildee to lift up neglected communities and ensure clean drinking water. These are existing solutions to problems that can no longer be ignored.
Clean air and clean water are human rights. Let’s make policies and take action that lives by those values. As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, let us take pride in the progress we have made, acknowledge the work still to be done, and commit to fighting for a more just and equitable future.