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This Earth Day, let’s also commit to healing our planet

Coronavirus has taught us that while we work to heal our people, we can also come together to reduce the impact of climate change.

One of the most notable realizations of the COVID-19 pandemic is that we have the capacity to work together to accomplish wide-scale change. This is a lesson that’s going to be crucial to tackling some of the biggest challenges facing our planet in the years ahead. 

This pandemic has also shown us that planetary healing is possible. We can slow down, and potentially reverse, the effects of climate change. But it’s going to take a large scale effort many of us could not have imagined — until now. 

We may be the problem, but we’re also the solution. 

Many of the stories going around about how the environment has improved since humans started staying home have also been accompanied with pessimistic takes calling humans the disease or pointing out just how bad we let this situation get. But there’s another way to look at this news of improved environmental health. 

These reports show that planetary healing is possible. We can reverse course and save our planet. We just need to be willing to implement systemic change. 

There’s also another unintended consequence. Now that we’ve seen this is possible, it makes the argument that much stronger for environmental activists and anyone who is worried about our planet’s future. We know that conservative politicians and corporations will fight against progress no matter what the data shows, but we need to be persistent in pushing for change. And if the lawmakers won't change course, then we'll need to change the lawmakers. 

This applies especially to Texas, where many conservative politicians still deny that climate change exists and have been slow to implement policy meant to protect our planet. 

This cannot wait. 

Climate change is already a crisis, and while it may not be as pronounced as the global pandemic we’re facing, people are already dying because of what we’ve done to our environment. 

All along, we should have been treating the climate crisis with the same level of seriousness and immediacy that we’re treating the COVID-19 pandemic. Climate change could lead to deaths far outnumbering those that we’ve seen from this virus. 

In fact, the environment’s impact on people’s health is already exacerbating the impact of coronavirus, specifically in communities of color, where people are more likely to suffer respiratory health issues as a result bad air quality because of polluting facilities like landfills, incinerators, petrochemical plants and refineries, and coal power plants. 

Across the nation, evidence suggests that people of color are dying at higher rates from COVID-19 than white people. We know that when crises like these take place, communities of color often have far fewer resources to address disaster and, as a result, face far greater risks than whiter, wealthier neighborhoods. At one point, Texas had a state office that could have investigated these racial disparities even more, but lawmakers defunded it in 2017. 

A common mistake some activists make is thinking that you can only focus on one problem at a time. There are some who might criticize this piece as being too focused on the climate crisis when thousands are dying from COVID-19 in our country. Let’s be clear, the coronavirus pandemic is a global tragedy, and we must continue to fight to protect people’s health and safety. But when you take a more holistic look at these issues, you’ll see they’re all interconnected. 

The fact is that while coronavirus may not discriminate, it does impact people in our society unequally. And we’re seeing the same thing with climate change. 

Environmental injustice, the climate crisis, and our current pandemic are inextricably linked. And the sooner we realize that, the sooner we can make real change. We’ve made a lot of mistakes in our response to this pandemic, but we can use what we've learned to help inform the kind of response we need to tackle the climate crisis. 

Happy Earth Day! Now let’s get to work to heal our people, while also working to heal our planet.