Earth Day Editorial

 

We at WiRED International observe Earth Day this year with heightened concern. As WiRED’s health education work focuses increasingly on the One Health perspective — the interaction among human, animal and environmental health — we become ever more watchful of policies that impact air, land and water, because they, in turn, affect human health.

 

As the world struggles to institute policies to reduce pollution that fouls the air and water and escalates climate change, the United States, one major contributor to the fouling of the planet, has hastened policies that make conditions much worse.

 

During the past year, the United States has rolled back decades of regulations that limit hazardous pollutants like lead and mercury, and it has withdrawn provisions of the Clean Air Act, one of the most effective environmental laws reaching back to the 1970s. As we celebrate Earth Day this year, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is sabotaging fuel economy standards, the result of which will increase toxic emissions, damage health, and, ironically, put American auto manufacturers at a global disadvantage for marketing their cars. In a misguided effort to bolster the oil industry, the administration may be damaging the automobile industry.

 

The U.S. administration has not stopped with air pollution. It has, with equal enthusiasm, undermined our water protections. Within its first year, it has halted clean water regulations that kept pollution from small creeks and pools that feed into rivers and streams. It has killed rules that once prevented groundwater contamination from arsenic, uranium, coal ash and other pollutants known to harm public health and to contaminate land and water. This is a baseless strike at rules that have enjoyed broad public support, and the consequences will last for generations.

 

On this Earth Day, we are mindful that the administration has raised entry fees for our national parks, while dropping two million acres from the country’s protected areas and selling off 11.6 million acres of wild public lands for oil and mineral prospecting.

 

Despite strong voter support for the Paris Climate Accord, the administration has cynically abandoned this global effort to control climate change. Shamefully, we remain the only country on the planet to have done so.

 

Endangered species, once protected, are now in greater jeopardy; oil drilling in sensitive regions has been green-lighted; pesticides harmful to human health are now given license, and renewable energies that capture the sun and harness the wind have been undermined. Decades of environmental advances are now in retreat. A recent Harvard study lists more than 60 environment and climate provisions that have been eliminated or sit vulnerable on the chopping block.

 

Like many American organizations working abroad, we are deeply troubled by these misguided policies. More than damaging the environment within our borders, they strain the environment of the entire planet and thus impact human and animal health. As we observe Earth Day this year, we see much to worry us and little to celebrate.

 

 

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