Protecting the Planet to Protect Ourselves
There is nothing like needing to stay at home to renew your appreciation of nature. During the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve made a point of getting outside at least once a day to get some exercise and Vitamin D — and I know other Granite Staters are too.
Getting outside — while keeping a safe distance from others — reminds us of the public health benefits of our environment. But the inverse can also be true; pollution can exacerbate public health crises.
Harvard recently released a study showing that people who live in highly polluted areas have an increased risk of death or serious illness if they contract COVID-19. While studying Manhattan’s outbreak, the researchers found that if the borough had lowered its pollution rates by just one microgram per cubic meter over the past 20 years, it would have likely prevented 248 deaths by this point in the outbreak.
Despite the most recent findings — which build on previous, similar ones — the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) willfully chose to ignore the advice of its own scientists earlier this week and refused to issue more stringent air pollution guidelines.
Though it is perhaps more clear than ever that our public health depends on our preservation of the environment, this decision by the EPA did not come as a surprise. Over and over again, the Trump administration has rolled back environmental protections at the behest of corporate special interests.
Earlier this year, I visited Newfields Elementary School after one inquisitive student wrote to me with concerns about the fires in the Amazon rainforest. Both she and her classmates had many questions about how we can better protect our environment.
Our nation’s young people will appropriately continue to ask questions critical to their futures, and we need to answer their questions with action. This Earth Day, I hope that you will join me in recommitting to the fight for environmental protections. Our health, our economy, and our way of life depend on it.