Climate, Health and Equity Brief
Earth Week 2020
April 24, 2020
Hot Topic: Mother Earth. As the 50th Annual Earth Week draws to a close—and with a welcome assist from the U.S. Supreme Court—today’s Brief celebrates good news about the planet we call home.
SCOTUS dealt a win for American waterways Thursday, voting 6-3 to close a major loophole in the Clean Water Act—legislation inspired by the first Earth Day 50 years ago. The majority ruled that the Act forbids polluters from spewing waste into navigable waters like oceans and streams without a permit, even if the pollution travels indirectly through groundwater. The decision is a win for environmentalists and a rejection of the Trump Administration’s push to allow groundwater pollution without a permit, which Justice Stephen G. Breyer, writing for the majority, called “extreme.”
Despite the adversity we face with COVID-19 and the looming climate crisis, we must not forget that humanity and nature are resilient—and that there is good news to celebrate, momentum to build upon and historic precedent that we can change course for the better. And if you don’t take our word for it, check out our exclusive interview with Earth Day founder Denis Hayes on the evolution of activism—and what makes him hopeful for the future.
—Matt & Traci, GMMB
Ten animal and plant species previously threatened with extinction are now flourishing due to habitat preservation, bans on hunting and other conservation efforts. (Natural History Museum)
Galápagos National Park announced the end of its giant tortoise breeding program after successfully increasing the population from 14 tortoises in 1970 to around 2,000 at the start of this year. (The New York Times)
A new report found that solar, wind and other green technologies provide more than one-third of all power globally, with renewable energy driving nearly 75 percent of new electricity generation capacity in 2019. (The Guardian)
Check out our interview with Denis Hayes, founder of the Earth Day Networkand president and CEO of the Bullitt Foundation, about the evolution of this pivotal environmental movement since it began with his vision and leadership in 1970. (GMMB)
In a victory for clean water, the Supreme Court has ruled that the U.S. Clean Water Act applies to pollutants that are discharged in groundwater. (The New York Times)
The Clean Water Act has prevented more than 700 billion pounds of toxic pollutants from being dumped into the nation’s waters every year since 1972. (Natural Resource Defense Council)
Scientists have seen an ‘astonishing’ increase in the population of whales off the coast of South Georgia Island in the Atlantic Ocean and credit a moratorium on commercial whaling for the population growth. (BBC)
A recent report found that an abundance of sea life can be restored to the world’s oceans within 30 years if industrial pollution controls, sustainable fishing practices and decarbonization efforts are implemented around the world. (The Guardian)
Researchers estimate that the U.S. Clean Air Act—inspired by the first Earth Day—has prevented more than 10 million premature deaths and produced more than $22 trillion in health and economic benefits since 1970. (Yale Environment 360, UN Environment)
In 2019, coal-fired electricity output in the U.S. fell to its lowest level since 1975, following a decade of decline in the industry. (Reuters)
Climate activism has fired up more than 7 million youth from 180 countries, with online demonstrations this month expanding their reach and garnering increased support from older generations dedicated to creating a positive climate legacy. (Greenpeace, The Guardian, Gizmodo)
A recent study found that nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of Americans agree that protecting the environment and dealing with global climate change should be top priorities for the president and Congress. (Pew Research Center)
Want to feel in touch with nature this Earth Week? Spark some joy with these animal webcams and U.S. National Park virtual tours, and keep the good vibes flowing through April 26 with the Smithsonian’s digital Earth Optimism Summit, featuring film screenings, virtual workshops, panel discussions and more.
“We shouldn’t fuel the future with the polluting methods of the past. We have the technology to power our future in ways that don’t threaten our health or poison our planet. Let’s choose to use it.”
– Denis Hayes, Earth Day Founder