As the country joins together to save lives and put an end to the worst health catastrophe of our time and desperately searches for ways to try to be sure it never happens again, we need to also at the same time recognize the need to come together as part of the very same battle for the long term health of all of us by saving and protecting our environment – not only for our generation but also for the health of future generations to come.
Even as the Federal government sadly attempts to loosen environmental standards and, as understandably, our priorities are focused on fighting this insidious disease, we can and should be fighting to improve our environment. In fact, this may be the best chance we have had in generations to help our environment and make giant steps forward to improve the world for all of us for many years to come.
Now some folks may believe we can’t be sidetracked, that every bit of our efforts need to focus on the battle ahead, and that the environmental issues should be put on the back burner in favor of big business or for just another day.
But just for a minute let’s go back to another, even more desperate time in our history, when the battle to pass the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 was in the national spotlight. This landmark law that is now under attack continues to save countless birds, from the backyard Cardinal to the Peregrine Falcon. The events that occurred in our history at the time when the struggle to pass that law was being fought may surprise you.
The Migratory Bird Treaty Act was passed in an era when many bird species were threatened with extinction by the commercial trade in birds and bird feathers. The groundbreaking statute makes it unlawful without a waiver to pursue, hunt, take, capture, kill, or sell birds listed therein as migratory birds.
And yet as that law was being fought for, the United States was in the depths of World War I and the Spanish Flu epidemic and despite the tragic and historic losses of millions of lives we still thought it was important enough to stand up and protect our bird life before it was too late. After all, even then we knew that where birds thrive so do people.
This is not the time to take a step back and say the environment can wait for another day. Our time is now more than ever to fight climate change which allows more disease to threaten human life, not only wildlife. Making sure our air gets cleaner and stays that way is imperative not only for the natural world but for example preventing future cases and protecting people with asthma especially in inner cities where they are more prone and the most vulnerable from the effects of breathing dirty air. And I am sure that I don’t need to remind us all how important clean water is not only to wildlife but also to every one of us as in the atrocious cases of Flint, Michigan, and Newark, New Jersey.
The fight against climate change, protecting clean air and clean water, is all connected to protecting and preserving not only on own health but our natural areas and ecosystems as well. In the words of John Muir, “When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” That is more true now than ever.
Saving, preserving and protecting our environment are not only about protecting the birds and animals, it is in the end about protecting and preserving ourselves, humankind.
Whether it is working to stem the decline of pollinators or making sure toxic waste gets cleaned up entirely no matter where it is there should be no going backwards. We can only go forward, and creating a healthier habitat for us and wildlife is one and the same.
We cannot forget how much we needed our forests and fields when it seemed the world was coming apart for many of us and we will need to never let ourselves and especially our elected officials forget about how important having healthy food, water and healthy places for our families was at this time and always will be.
After every catastrophe America stood up and did better, and this should be no different. Starting now we will have a chance to improve many aspects of our society from health care to Government. A healthy environment is a fundamental right of everyone no matter where you live and it will be a good place to start to improve the lives of all of us as we heal and rebuild from such a devasting time in all of our lives.