I keep seeing them.
The Instagram posts about the Earth healing itself, the news articles about the dolphins returning to the Venice canals, and that cartoon picture of a happy Earth giving itself a hug as people isolate themselves.
“The air quality in Los Angeles is so good,” people tell me, “The Earth is healing itself! Aren’t you happy?”
No. I’m not. Not at all. I am fucking pissed.
(Although there are some good meme’s going around that I do enjoy.)
But memes aside, underneath the anger, I’m scared. I’m terrified. The Earth will not heal itself, this pandemic is not going to save our planet.
It’s going to kill some of us. And it’s going to widen the gap between the rich and the poor.
I hate to be that girl who ruins the one silver lining we were so desperate for — but white-collar workers telecommuting isn’t going to save the dolphins. In fact, that dolphin story is fake. A global recession will not prevent climate catastrophe — it will barely put a dip in emissions.
Unless you can afford a fortress with a private army and water supply, you will be affected by the climate crisis. You probably already have been.
So I am here to remind everyone that we still need real systematic change at every level of government. We need a Green New Deal. And we need it now.
There are those who’ve pushed back against taking action now. We’re in the middle of an unprecedented and historic crisis. Who are we to call for Medicare for All, real clean energy programs and jobs that go with it, a bailout of the people, and not corporations?
They say, one thing at a time. Let’s wait. But we must not address COVID-19 in a vacuum. This fucked up simulation we are (hopefully?) living in contains multitudes: many simultaneous crises that cannot be decoupled from one another.
The same broken system that is leaving millions of people unable to pay rent, afford food, get healthcare, is the same broken system that has caused the climate crisis to get out of hand: deregulation, racism, market solutions, an extractive economy that put profits over people. Yes, capitalism. I am talking about capitalism.
And our politicians keep doubling down on this system. Time and time again.
Congress bailed out airlines, corporations, with no climate protections to go hand in hand. And I’m talking about both sides: remember, Democrats take money from fossil fuel executives, too.
We are all going to die and Nancy Pelosi is eating fucking ice cream on late night TV. Meanwhile, she won’t even tell the select committee on the Climate Crisis to not take money from fossil fuels.
Our president has deregulated even more: fuel efficiency standards, mercury emissions, and toxic ash (which sounds like the fossil fuel industry invented it just so Trump would have more to deregulate).
The state-level is disappointing, too. California Governor Gavin Newsome has used this time to issue new fracking permits after a temporary ban. More fracking. Gavin, why? Where are we even going to store all this gas and oil?!
Please, not in any of our already leaking and out-of-date gas storage facilities.
Which brings me to the local level. Environmental racism is killing people in Los Angeles, today. Right now. And it’s related to COVID-19 (because, again, this is all linked).
There is a direct link between pollution and COVID-19 death rates — and people of color in this city (and other cities) are dying at a higher rate than anyone else. Partially, because they are disproportionately “essential workers” who do not have the luxury of working from home, but also because we are drilling for oil in their backyards. Literally, right in their backyards.
We need our city to act on this. Unfortunately, our City Council is barely even meeting — they’ve moved to zoom calls every other week. Environmental progress (much like housing justice) for Angelinos, is effectively on pause.
We need this policy so much right now. Not just for the climate, but to pull ourselves out of the upcoming financial and environmental crisis.
I’m not saying that a Green New Deal will be easy. We are building the plane midair as we attempt to land it. Yes, this is hard. But we are 3,000 feet in the air. We will fall to our deaths if we don’t figure this out.And people are already writing the policy. Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez released a Green New Deal for Public Housing Act, and a plan to phase out fracking by 2025.
Hell, put me in charge! I will write local policy!
On this Earth Day. This 50-year anniversary of Earth Day. I am really angry. Not for the planet, or the dolphins, but for the fucking people who will die because of our leadership’s sheer laziness and ties to fossil fuels.
Beneath that anger, I am depressed. Beaten down by reality, time and time again.
But beneath that depression, there is a small sliver of hope, burning, perhaps insanity induced by indoor air pollution.
But that hope is there, and that is really important. Because I see my leaders failing me, but I also see my community stepping up in a way that I’ve never seen before. People organizing their neighbors, donating to mutual aid, calling strangers and bringing them food. Community leaders running for office and demanding change.
I see millions of people willing to sacrifice for the greater good, to flatten the curve.
And that gives me hope. Because we can adapt to save our species.
But we cannot wait until this is all over to demand real change from our leaders. We must engage now. Organize, mobilize, build power in people. Join an environmental movement. A racial justice movement. A criminal justice movement. Housing justice movement. A Medicare for All movement. A feminist movement. It’s all connected.
We must take part in Earth Week and call on our leaders to do better.
We must not fool ourselves this Earth Day.
We must stop sharing that dolphin story.
The arc of the moral universe is too long and we must force it towards justice.