These are unprecedented times for all leaders as we face the unknowns of coronavirus, deal with medical equipment and testing shortages, and make difficult decisions to protect our communities.
While we are busy trying to manage the chaos caused by this pandemic, our federal administration and other leading agencies are considering pulling back on efforts to fight climate change. This is the absolute opposite action we should take at this time. In fact, this pandemic is evidence that it has never been more important to keep moving forward to protect our air, water, land and wildlife.
In this 50th-year Earth Day month celebration, it is even more important to be mindful of the damage and negative impacts of climate change: escalating atmospheric carbon dioxide, high releases of methane into the ozone and poisonous chemicals. Our federal administration is using buzz words such as “reform,” “correction,” “revision,” “streamlining,” “suspension,” “delayed,” “exemption” and “modernize” to confuse and mystify the public while deflecting the true intent of greed and corruption.
Nothing is as important as keeping our families and constituents safe and healthy right now. It is hard to think about anything other than dealing with the day-to-day work of mitigating this virus. But here’s why we should: There is a connection between the climate crisis and the rise of viral pandemics that we would be short-sighted to overlook.
Scientists agree that as our climate changes, we can expect to see new infectious diseases strike more frequently and severely. Research has identified new viruses in melting glaciers, and suggested warmer-than-average winters cause more severe flu seasons.
Over the past several weeks, we’ve all had to reshuffle priorities and adjust to the changes necessitated by this global health crisis. Many issues will deservedly take a backburner for weeks and likely months to come. But now is not the time for leaders at any level of government to pump the brakes on climate change action or lose momentum on the gains we’ve made.
When this pandemic is behind us – and it will be, eventually – we would be remiss to resume business as usual when it comes to defending our environment and the air we all breathe. This is the perfect opportunity to affirm and strengthen policies that limit climate-damaging emissions and protect our public health. Can we really afford not to?
As we approach this coming election, we are wise to remember that we are in this situation because of the reckless behavior of leaders who have constantly denied climate change/disruption and scientific evidence. I encourage you to research the candidates who are running for elected offices at all levels, and support those who are ready to take action on protecting our air, water, land, and wildlife. These are the leaders we need now.
Let us remember the words of a great civil rights leader, U.S. Rep. John Lewis: “Do not become bitter or hostile. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.”
Anna Hansen is a member of the Santa Fe County Commission.