Up against COVID-19, environmental activism goes digital for 50th annual Earth Day
Facing COVID-19 health restrictions, Earth Day activism this year is going online with a 3-day livestream mobilization called Earth Day Live.

Many people have fought for a union, good wages, and strong benefits, especially health insurance. People have successfully defended a stream here or land there. While very important, none of those gains will stop climate change, pollution, wars, and pandemics. The interrelationships between these maladies have bubbled to the surface in these COVID-19 times.

That good union contract or green victory didn’t stop the Trump Administration from:

  • taking the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Accords.
  • gutting the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act.
  • Sending gunships and troops toward Venezuela.
  • Dismantling the U.S. pandemic office in 2018.

Lest we forget, it was President Bill Clinton who brought us NAFTA. Obama brought us the mess in Libya and parts of Africa. While preaching platitudes, both brought us war and earth degradation.

New research that focused on air pollution helps us to make connections that were only guessed at but hidden. Scientists put great emphasis on the power of a study. They routinely ask the question: How many subjects were in the study? One study in the peer-reviewed journal JAMA included 4.5 million veterans, considered a study of “high power.”

The research showed an association between air pollution and deaths. And these deaths happened with air pollution standards in place that are now under the gun of the Trump administration. That is the same anti-science administration that constantly blames “the other,” like the Chinese, Muslims, or Mexicans.

The research also showed similar inequities that the COVID-19 pandemic is rapidly revealing in a mass, public way. In this case, the revelation was the way air pollution hurts Black Americans. It confirmed that Black Americans were exposed to more pollution and got sicker than white Americans. Much of this pollution is caused by the same fossil fuels that have brought us rapid climate change.

It’s the same oil and fossil fuels that have the Trump administration sending gunboats with troops toward oil-rich Venezuela and threatening war. The same Trump administration that dismantled the U.S. pandemic office in 2018 and had us woefully unprepared for COVID-19. Yet they always have enough money and military resources to maintain their oil profits.

Trade unionists and greens are involved in mainly defensive struggles. We need, for the long term, an offense that goes beyond this nursing home floor and defending that river or special land. Offense means winning political power to break the cycles of environmental deterioration, job takeaways, pandemics, and war.

The earth, nature, and all people need a robust working-class consciousness. This includes union members knowing wealth creation starts with a healthy planet. Greens need to grasp that without labor there are no hybrid cars, wind turbines, and solar panels. In Connecticut, it was organized labor that paid for the trains that brought many people to the massive Climate March in 2014. That kind of heightened blue-green consciousness is needed to bring the fundamental changes—including socialism—we all need.

A Green New Deal—of course! A Green New Peace Deal has to be our battle cry. Socialism is needed to seal the deal.

Adiós Trump is the first order of the day.

Under COVID-19 conditions, mobilizations for Earth Day 2020 are getting innovative and will stretch across three days. Here’s an overview of the themes and what’s happening each day:

  • April 22—STRIKE: The 50th anniversary of Earth Day is about demonstrating collective power in the face of today’s multiple crises. There will be performances, conversations, trainings, and more.
  • April 23—DIVEST: The world’s largest banks have pumped $1.9 trillion into fossil fuels since the 2015 Paris Agreement. We can’t let fossil fuel companies use the pandemic to loot trillions more when people need relief so desperately. Led by the Stop the Money Pipeline Coalition, April 23rd focuses on the role of money in driving the climate crisis.
  • April 24—VOTE: We need leaders who will address the existential threat of climate change, and for this to happen, we need people to show up at the polls. Led by the U.S. Youth Strike Coalition, April 24th will focus on voter registration and feature a digital voter registration challenge to see which region of the country can register the most voters.

Click here to find out more about Earth Day Live and take part in one of the biggest days of digital action the climate movement has ever seen.

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Len Yannielli
Len Yannielli

Long time environmental activist Len Yannielli is professor emeritus, Naugatuck Valley Community College, Waterbury, Conn. He was the 2009 National Association Of Biology Teachers Evolution Educator of the Year. He is sports crazy!