Earth Day is an annual marker of the progress humanity has made as stewards of our planet. It’s a celebration of the work accomplished and the work that must happen to protect the earth we all love, now and for future generations.
Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson leveraged the power and passion of student anti-Vietnam war protesters to raise awareness for the environment. The inaugural event that brought together Republicans and Democrats to stand united for the environment was branded by the press as Earth Day in 1970. Soon, it spread from college campuses with multiple organizations and citizens from all backgrounds taking part and has become a worldwide day of action.
Elected Officials to Protect America, EOPA, an organization of thousands of elected officials, honors Sen. Nelson on Earth Day. He proved that environmental legislative proposals with the backing of a wide coalition of engaged citizens can become laws with more frequency than working in a silo. This principle governs our programs at EOPA.
He helped President Kennedy undertake a national tour for conservation and the environment. With President Johnson, he advanced Civil Rights legislation and waged the War on Poverty. Nelson saw these battles as part and parcel of his environmental agenda. Sen Nelson said, “Environment is all of America and its problems. It is rats in the ghetto. It is a hungry child in a land of affluence. It is housing not worthy of the name; neighborhoods not fit to inhabit.”
“Sen. Nelson understood that the only way we’ll succeed in securing environmental justice is when we achieve voting rights justice. He knew that economic prosperity and environmental protection can and should go hand in hand. He believed that united there’s nothing America can not achieve. EOPA is humbled and guided by his environmental leadership,” said Alex Cornell du Houx, former Maine state Representative, Marine combat veteran, and President of Elected Officials to Protect America and Co-Founder. “Like Sen. Nelson, President Biden sees the urgency of protecting our planet for all of humanity. His climate bill before the Senate combines concrete actions to mitigate against climate change, and advances environmental justice — while paving the way for good-paying, union jobs. EOPA urges the passage of this once-in-a-generation opportunity to avoid a worsening climate crisis and give workers lifetime opportunities in a clean energy economy.”
Nelson’s Earth Day led to the founding of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and catapulted an “Environmental Decade” of legislative reforms. The Clean Water Act, the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, the Federal Pesticides Act, the Clean Air Act, the Environmental Education Act, the National Hiking Trails and the National Scenic Trails Acts, and the establishment of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. These laws have saved millions of people from disease and death while protecting countless wild species from extinction.
Then in 1987 the world pledged to fix the ozone layer when 197 countries came together and agreed to stop using CFCs and similar ozone-depleting chemicals by signing the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. The phase-out of 99 percent of ozone-depleting chemicals in refrigerators, air conditioners and other products resulted. More than 135 billion tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent emissions were prevented from reaching the atmosphere between 1990 and 2010. Over 98 percent of ozone-depleting substances have been phased out globally to date. A team of scientists found that since 2000 the hole in the ozone has shrunk by 4 million square kilometers – an area bigger than India.
In recognition of the impact of Earth Day, Senator Nelson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, presented by Bill Clinton.
“Senator Gaylord Nelson’s environmental legacy should continue to inspire us to act to protect our state and country’s natural resources. As the founder of Earth Day, Senator Nelson was concerned with how to ‘get the nation to wake up and pay attention to the most important challenge the human species faces on the planet.’ It was an oil spill, and the way that people came together to clean it up inspired him to create Earth Day,” said Katrina Shankland, a WI State Representative & EOPA Leadership Council member. “With the most recent landmark U.N. IPCC report stating that there is still time to stop extreme climate change, let us come together as 20 million Americans did on the first Earth Day in 1970 and resolve to act on climate. We must start by calling on the U.S. Senate to pass the climate bill, which would be the largest investment in clean energy in U.S. history and would grow our clean energy economy by adding millions of jobs.”
Today, Earth Day is our annual check-up assessing how much we have averted climate change. That news is grim.
As sea levels rise, and the climate crisis worsens because the atmosphere is under siege from fossil fuel emissions, humanity needs more aggressive actions to combat this clear and present danger. Nine million people die annually from breathing in the toxic particulates that fossil fuel companies produce. In an age where autocrats have grown wealthy off of oil and gas, the IPCC report found that nations are not doing enough to mitigate the climate emergency.
Petrostates, like Russia, use oil and gas profits to abuse human rights and wage war because democratic nations are addicted to fossil fuels. Vladmir Putin was emboldened and felt secure assuming that the European Union wouldn’t impose oil and gas sanctions on his country because the EU gets the majority of oil and gas, 40 percent, from Russia.
The war in Ukraine highlights the urgency of becoming energy secure. The best way for America to weaken Putin and other petro-dictators is by slashing worldwide fossil fuel demand. The good news is we have the technology and solutions to make it happen.
“Every day I recoil from images of neighborhoods where I played as a youngster as they go up in flames and are reduced to rubble. The emptiness, and loss are hard to express. We owe it to our shared humanity to act decisively to help now. We can help protect democratic nations, who are reliant on fossil fuels, to become energy secure, by showing the way,” said Igor Tregub, Ukrainian immigrant, Chair of the California Democratic Party Environmental Caucus and Former Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board Member, EOPA member. “Bolstering our energy supply with renewable solutions like distributed solar is a viable local solution that can be catalyzed right now. On a larger scale, offshore wind’s potential is yet to be realized. These and other renewable energy investments will catalyze the creation of thousands of new, well-paying jobs, grow our economy, and, literally save lives.”
Germany relies on 55 percent of Russian gas but could transition away from their fossil fuel dependency with installed heat pumps in homes and businesses by next winter. America could help that process by accelerating our manufacturing of clean energy solutions. We just need political will to act.
The U.S. Senate has a $550 billion federal climate bill before them which they could pass now. It would be the largest investment in clean energy in U.S. history and would help us grow our clean energy economy by adding millions of jobs, including more than556,000 manufacturing jobs and more than 312,000 construction jobs annually. Initially part of the stalled Build Back Better Act, the climate investments were broken out and approved by House Democrats as a separate budget reconciliation bill in an effort to speed passage.
“Sen. Nelson galvanized the environmental movement into action. America is known for leading efforts that change the world, like President Reagan did focusing on uniting the world to ban CFCs. President Biden has brought leaders of the free world together to stand against Putin’s illegal war. His bill before the US Senate, once passed, will encourage other nations to accelerate their clean energy plans,” said Dominic Frongillo, Executive Director and Co-Founder of Elected Officials to Protect America, former Council Member and Deputy Supervisor of Caroline, New York. “Our Senate must act now to pass the largest climate bill in our history, which will create millions of good, family-sustaining jobs.”
Sen. Nelson established programs like Operation Mainstream, which funded millions for the creation of conservation jobs for marginalized people and gave them skills training. As the “Conservation Governor,” he established a Youth Conservation Corps to create green jobs for over 1,000 unemployed young people Both programs were similar to the Civilian Climate Corps that is in the U.S. Senate bill which will enlist a diverse generation in conserving public lands, bolstering community resilience, and addressing the changing climate, all while putting good-paying union jobs within reach.
President Biden recently invoked the Defense Production Act to compel mining and processing for electric vehicle batteries and energy storage facilities. Polysilicon, which is needed for solar panels, next generation batteries, and computer chips, could be added to the DPA critical materials list.
“Ultimately, the DPA should be invoked to ramp up production for alternative energy systems. Current U.S. energy production policies and practices favor profit over people and the planet. The public demands lawmakers take action to change this paradigm,” said Christian Brock, CEO of Elected Officials to Protect America, Air Force Veteran, CA. “We should move forward with climate plans in the Senate and make our nation’s largest investment in a clean energy transition that would bring environmental justice to communities that have been neglected by systemic racism for far too long.”
In just the first nine months of 2021, top oil and gas companies made $174 billion in profits, and oil and gas CEOs have been cashing in on these gains with stock buyback programs that totaled over $25 billion in the past year.
A Pew Research Center survey of 10,237 U.S. adults conducted from Jan. 24 to 30, 2022, found that 69 percent of U.S. adults prioritize developing alternative energy sources, such as wind and solar, over expanding the production of oil, coal and natural gas.
Recent polling found that 87 percent of voters think that lawmakers should take action against profiteering oil and gas companies, while 80 percent agree that a windfall tax on Big Oil would be beneficial to prevent companies from price gouging.
An EOPA letter, which close to 500 lawmakers signed, supports a clean energy plan and asks for the Defense Production Act to be invoked. The President’s climate plan before the U.S. Senate and the EOPA clean energy plan match in many areas
About Elected Officials to Protect America: EOPA is a network of current and former elected officials who care deeply about protecting the planet and people. EOPA is committed to solving the climate crisis, ensuring environmental justice, and protecting our lands and waters. EOPA educates through value-based storytelling, training lawmakers, and connecting elected officials to inspire strong environmental leadership.
April 21, 2022
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Ramona du Houx,
Elected Officials to Protect America