April 22, 2020

Udall: Reflecting on the 50th Earth Day During a Time of Crisis

Amid COVID-19 pandemic, Udall outlines vision to help prevent future pandemics, fight dual nature and climate crises, and advance environmental justice

Read the full Medium post here.

SANTA FE, N.M. —Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.), ranking member for the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee for the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies, marked the 50thEarth Day by highlighting the nexus between the COVID-19 pandemic and the crises facing our planet, and outlined a vision for the future to help prevent future public health crises, fight the dual nature and climate crises, and advance environmental justice. Excerpts from Udall’s piece are below:

“Today, we are observing the 50th Earth Day – and the world looks much different than it did 50 years ago. The threats to our planet have drastically worsened. The quiet crises my father warned about have risen to a crescendo. We are facing down dual climate and nature crises that threaten life as we know it. We are in the middle of a sixth mass extinction – with 1 million species at risk of extinction – while climate change stands as an existential threat to our future. 

“And meanwhile, we are confronting a public health crisis that has profoundly shaken every aspect of American – and global – life.

“The science is clear that a major factor in the spread of disease is the both the illegal trafficking of wildlife as well as the loss and fragmentation of wildlife habitats and populations. When habitat shrinks and wildlife is exploited, it’s easier for zoonotic diseases to spread among animals and then to humans. So, we must conserve and protect habitat and biodiversity -- if we want to protect ourselves. 

“Any path forward must be undertaken with equity and inclusion as our north star. We must ensure environmental justice for all. We must continue to build a diverse conservation and environmental movement that empowers traditionally marginalized voices – a movement that looks like America – if we are to achieve lasting progress. 

“As we grapple with the severe health, social, and economic pain of this pandemic, we must prepare ourselves for the reality that – if we continue down the current path we are on -- the climate and nature crises will carry with them even more intense and immediate devastation across all facets of American life.

“And yet, we do not need to be resigned to that future. We have it in our power to alter our path forward – to put ourselves on a better, more sustainable course.  

“Which leads me to a final, more hopeful, lesson for the future: at this difficult time for our nation, this crisis has shown us how deeply interconnected we all are – and it has shown us that we are capable of bold, collective action behind a unified purpose, if we just summon the will.

“On this 50th Earth Day, people—especially young people and those who have historically been marginalized—are demanding bold action and demanding it now to fight climate change and save our planet. Like they did 50 years ago, the American public is breathing new energy into a resurgent environmental protection movement.”

Read Udall’s full outline of his environmental vision here.