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How to value people over polluters | Kathy Castor
As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, there is much left to do to save lives.
U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa.
U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa. [ Times (2019) ]
Published Apr. 21, 2020

The optimism and resilience of the American people are key to tackling the COVID-19 pandemic and the costly climate crisis. On Earth Day 2020, a clear vision is emerging on how to save lives.

Fifty years ago on April 22, 1970, millions of Americans joined together to stand up for clean air and clean water, call for protections for our lands, oceans and endangered species, and fight for a healthy future for everyone. It was the first Earth Day when the power of people from all walks of life combined with scientific know how, and the American “can do” spirit, led to landmark environmental safeguards and progress. We created the Environmental Protection Agency. We passed the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act and the Endangered Species Act.

Today, as we mark the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, more difficult challenges are upon us: an unprecedented public health crisis and deteriorating atmosphere upon which all life depends. While we can’t take to the streets like the trailblazers did 50 years ago, we can still rally for action for healthier families and raise our voices to demand clean energy solutions. They are directly related.

For example, recent research points to air pollution as a likely factor in higher death rates from COVID-19, especially among disproportionately impacted communities. We already know that air pollution from power plants and dirty vehicles costs lives and has altered our climate. Unfortunately, as we battle a disease that attacks our lungs, President Donald Trump is rolling back safeguards that millions of Americans fought for during that first Earth Day. Trump has been pushing for more pollution to come out of smokestacks and tailpipes, not less. It’s truly outrageous and very costly.

Instead, now is the time to come together and value people over polluters. We can enact smart policies to protect our environment and solve the climate crisis, ensuring the long-term prosperity of Florida’s economy and preserving our way of life for future generations. As we’ve seen over the years, communities like ours in Tampa Bay are uniquely vulnerable to the effects of the climate crisis. Hotter temperatures, climate-fueled storms and flooding exacerbated by creeping sea level rise have shown us the urgent need for climate action. Investing in resilience and infrastructure can keep our families safe while creating good-paying jobs for Floridians. And investing in clean energy and energy efficiency can boost workers across the Sunshine State, save families money on their utility bills and reduce pollution through innovation. Climate solutions are the way forward, not just for our public health, but for our economy and our children’s future.

We’re all inspired by everyone doing their part to fight COVID-19. And together we can tackle the climate crisis and ensure a healthy planet for future generations.

During my time in Congress, I’ve worked to protect the public health and clean air and water for all Americans, and to protect Florida from climate-fueled disasters. As chair of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, I’ve spent the past year working with colleagues to develop a comprehensive Congressional Climate Action Plan for a healthier America, and to enact common-sense solutions that will advance clean energy and prepare us for climate risks. The cost of inaction is huge, and families and communities already are paying a price.

We need to chart a course for a healthier economy too, and clean energy innovation is crucial. As Congress considers bipartisan legislation to help businesses bounce back, let’s help the 3.4 million clean energy workers across the nation who are driving down energy costs for Americans and cleaning the air. Last week, we learned that more than 106,000 clean energy workers lost their jobs in March, and that number could climb to half a million without help from Congress. The need for urgent action is clear.

Clean energy workers, young climate activists and health care professionals are urging us forward. Today, as we celebrate Earth Day 2020, I see the future - with a clear vision: a healthier, innovative, morally courageous and more equitable America.

Last week, we learned that more than 106,000 clean energy workers lost their jobs in March, and that number could climb to half a million without help from Congress. The need for urgent action is clear.

Clean energy workers, young climate activists and health care professionals are urging us forward. Today, as we celebrate Earth Day 2020, I see the future - with a clear vision: a healthier, innovative, morally courageous and more equitable America.

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, is chair of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis.