April 21, 2020

Udall Statement Ahead of 50th Earth Day

SANTA FE—Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.), ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, released the following statement ahead of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, which falls on Wednesday, April 22nd:  

“Across the United States, 20 million people of all ages and backgrounds united on April 22, 1970 to protect our planet and build an environmental movement from the ground up to chart a cleaner, healthier, and more sustainable future. The people who lent their voices to the first Earth Day created a groundswell of political change that helped enact bedrock conservation laws like the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts. Parents demanded change for their children, children demanded change for their future—and progress was won. It was during this time that my father, Stewart Udall, authored and fought for the Endangered Species Act – which has brought many almost-extinct species back to life – and sounded the alarm about the creeping destruction of nature, what he termed ‘The Quiet Crisis.’

“Now, ahead of the 50th Earth Day, the threats to our planet have drastically worsened. The quiet crisis has 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 facing a public health crisis that has profoundly shaken every aspect of American life. The COVID-19 crisis offers us a number of important lessons that we must heed as we observe Earth Day. First: the destruction of nature and ecosystems is not just a threat to our planet, but it is a threat to our public health. Scientists tell us that as we destroy nature, habitats, and the natural barriers between humans and wildlife – we will only see more and more zoonotic diseases like the COVID-19 pandemic. Second, we must acknowledge and address that the people who are most vulnerable to this virus are communities who have been historically marginalized and live on the front lines of environmental pollution. And third, we also cannot afford to ignore how human-caused climate change and habitat destruction represent a chilling promise: that this is only the first of a series of devastating crises that threaten to profoundly alter and disrupt life as we know it. 

“Across the country, people—especially young people and those who have historically been marginalized—are demanding bold action and demanding it now. Like in 1970, the American public is breathing new energy into a resurgent environmental movement. But today, too many lawmakers and politicians are putting short-sighted economic gains over the public good. And we are already paying too high a price.

“This week, and every week, I join the American public in their calls to action. We must save nature and focus on an economy powered by sustainable products, clean energy sources and climate-friendly technologies. I introduced a national goal to conserve at least 30 percent of our land and water by 2030 because our existence depends on the preservation of our natural environment. We need to tackle the pollution that threatens our future, which is why I introduced the first-ever bill to comprehensively tackle plastic pollution by holding corporations accountable for the amount of plastic waste they create. And I have introduced legislation to put our country on a path to decarbonize the power sector by 2050 and prevent the planet from reaching the dire projections from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Above all, we must listen to science and to scientists – because, as this pandemic shows, we all pay the price when science takes a back seat.

“But even at this difficult time, I have great hope for our country and our planet. Because the American people’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic shows us that we are more than capable of rising to big challenges—together. We have the power to take collective action, and to be bold. And while we continue to fight to protect our frontline workers who are saving lives every day and keep American and New Mexican families financially afloat, we must look to the future, and think about how we want to emerge from this crisis. We must recognize that we must save our planet to save ourselves. 

“The challenges we face today are great, but public support for conservation and climate action are stronger than ever. And with that energy, we can get this done – and save the planet for future generations.”