Environmental Sustainability After COVID-19
Kristi England, Executive Director of Earth Day NW 2020 at Forterra joined us at our first Virtual Lunch & Learn. For the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, Earth Day Northwest 2020 celebrates the #NEXT5 decades of Earth Day by asking organizations and individuals across the spectrum to make a public commitment to do something big, tangible and extra that preserves and protects the environment and our communities.
Kristi explained how the organization had to pivot all of their planned April events to comply with the Stay Home, Stay Healthy order. They translated their goals of being forward looking, engaging young people and using one’s voice for change into the Voices Carry campaign. They asked a range of locals to share the positive change they want to see in our region in the next five years. All this was done with careful consideration of balancing how to talk about a crisis other than COVID-19 when the rates of infection and death were still rising.
Next the conversation moved to some of the short-term environmental impacts of the pandemic — how are environmental agencies thinking about the decrease in carbon emissions during the pandemic? How does it inform them about what’s necessary to make an impact on climate change? Kristi pointed out that any positive environmental impacts of policies to “flatten the curve” do not mitigate the long-term damage already done to the environment. She cautioned that many of the precautions taken to control the spread of coronavirus are at odds with what climate activists propose to reduce negative environmental impacts. For example, dense cities to preserve wilderness and mass public transit potentially increase rates of infection. Additionally, Kristi outlined how communities that are hit “first and worst” by the pandemic are also those hit “first and worst” by climate change. Historically marginalized communities already face disproportionate exposure to pollution, less access to fresh food, and disparate health outcomes — the pandemic exacerbates these issues and short-term reductions to carbon emissions don’t begin to mitigate the problem.
Kristi also sees hope locally as Forterra and other environmental organizations have been able to meet their annual fundraising targets, interest in hyper-local food supply chains have spiked, and sustained work from home policies can have long-term impact on single-occupancy car traffic.
Here are Kristi’s recommendations for taking action if you care about environmental sustainability:
Watch the Lunch & Learn:
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