Our Quote of the Week stresses the importance of working together to protect our environment from the many human-made threats that are endangering life on Earth. As we mark our 53rd Earth Day on Saturday, let us work to create a safer, healthier environment for all of us. And, as we continue to explore the ways in which our systems have exploited and harmed the poorest and most vulnerable populations on earth, let us remember that protecting the environment is also a question of justice.
Sargent Shriver gave this speech about developing an international ethic of science in 1975. He stressed a need for collaboration and spoke about science and the environment in ways that seem remarkably prescient today, particularly in his inclusion of what he referred to as “inadvertent weather modification from all sources,” or what we would refer to today as climate change.
Without a doubt, pollution, climate change, and other factors that destroy our environment are damaging for all of us. But we must also understand that the destruction of our environment disproportionately affects the poor and communities of color. For example, poor communities:
- Have a higher exposure to air pollution, which means that they are at much higher risk of premature death.
- Are more likely to live near and / or work in garbage dumps, which are a cause of multiple health risks.
- Are at a much bigger risk of suffering from the effects of climate change. Unbearably high temperatures, droughts, violent weather, rising sea levels, and other effects of climate change are causing everything from food shortages to population displacement to miscarriages and premature death in the United States and across the world, and all of these are more prevalent in poor communities and communities of color.
This year's Earth Day theme is "Take action" -- and that's exactly what we must do. The health, safety, and well-being of populations around the world, particularly those who are already most vulnerable to poverty and conflict, rely on our collaboration and collective action. As we continue to push for action on protecting the environment, let's remember that we are also fighting to achieve environmental justice.