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Howard A. Learner

Earth Day 2020: 50 Years of Progress With Work Still to Do

Earth Day 1970 sounded an alarm that launched the modern environmental movement.

We’ve made tremendous progress towards healthier air, safer water, and less toxic pollution in our communities.

The Clean Air Act is working: you can now drive through Northwest Indiana with the windows rolled down without choking on so much smog.

The Clean Water Act is working: the Great Lakes are mostly cleaner, as industrial sewage and toxics are not being directly dumped into our lakes.

We have achieved a lot with the wave of environmental and public health protection laws passed over the past 50 years. These wins are real, they are significant, and we need to recognize and celebrate these successes. They didn’t come easy. Indeed, important changes rarely do.

Let’s also recognize that Earth Day 1970 – fifty years ago – was a clarion call for change by a small and growing movement of activists and advocates.

Today, the right to healthy clean air, safe clean drinking water, and communities free from toxic threats are shared American community values. There’s overwhelming bipartisan and nonpartisan public support for Great Lakes protection and restoration.

And yet, clearly, we still have a long way to go. To highlight just two enormous challenges:

First, climate change problems are getting worse. Climate change is the moral, economic, policy, political and technological challenge of our generation. The Midwest accounts for almost 25% of the nation’s CO2 pollution, generated primarily by being the center of the nation’s transportation system, and our heavy concentration of old, polluting coal plants. Since the Midwest is at the center of the problem, we should be a fulcrum for clean energy and clean transportation solutions that make both good economic and environmental sense.
 
In addition, the threats to our beloved Great Lakes are serious and severe. Climate change is yet another reason the Midwest needs to lead. The time to act is now.

Second, President Trump and his EPA are aggressively trying to move America backwards when it comes to protecting public health and our environment. While most of the world is sensibly distracted by the global COVID-19 public health crisis, the Trump EPA is sadly moving to roll back Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act standards that are designed to better protect public health and our environment. Air quality matters in the midst of a respiratory health global pandemic.ELPC is fighting back and playing to win against the Trump Administration’s attempts to rollback and weaken core clean air and safe clean water standards that protect all Americans. Our public interest experts are advocating in the courts of law and the courts of public opinion.

ELPC is a problem-solver with strategic advocacy to advance policy solutions: We identify solutions whenever we point to problems. That’s how we work, and that’s why ELPC is effective.

This Earth Day, we need more advocates than ever fighting for our environment and to solve climate change problems.

Best wishes, stay healthy, and let’s move forward together to save our planet and protect people and our communities.

Howard A. Learner,

President and Executive Director, Environmental Law & Policy Center

Howard Learner is an experienced attorney serving as the President and Executive Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center. He is responsible for ELPC’s overall strategic leadership, policy direction, and financial platform.

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