Today, on the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, the Climate Alliance is calling for bold emergency justice & a just recovery from COVID-19.
Although we cannot mobilize in the streets to call for climate justice this Earth Day, our message remains the same. Now, more important than ever, it is clear that we need bold transformative change and a just response and recovery from COVID-19 to ensure a safer, more equitable, climate justice future.
We know firsthand that the impacts of both the climate crisis and COVID-19 are disproportionately impacting working people, lower-income, and communities of color. Our labor union and community of color based partners representing workers and communities on the frontlines of this crisis are calling for bold emergency justice solutions to mitigate the dual health and economic impacts of COVID-19.
Similarly, many of the solutions needed to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 will also ease the transition to climate justice—such as prevailing wage, safe jobs, access to affordable healthcare, housing, childcare, and clean transportation and energy options. Our society’s ability to work together to mitigate the COVID-19 crisis is an inspiring example of what is possible when our society comes together to make collective sacrifices for the greater good — the type of action we’ll need from all of us to combat crises like climate change.
Now is not the time to return to “normal”. “Normal” is what created the climate crisis. Crises such as COVID-19 and climate change open the door to see what is broken in our society as well as create opportunities for transformative change. We must ensure that any transformative changes and just recovery solutions for COVID-19 lead us down the path towards a clean and just future for all. This is the time for action that stabilizes not just our economy, but our climate and our future. Our efforts to tackle these crises must prioritize the health and safety of our frontline communities, implementing public interventions that lift up those who are most impacted and are rooted in racial and economic justice.
As the state government mobilizes to combat the public health and financial impacts of these crises, it’s crucial that any recovery efforts center frontline workers and communities most impacted and create an equitable and sustainable future for all. From improving our public health infrastructure to investments in a clean and renewable energy economy that can create millions of good jobs, we must ensure that our state protects communities most impacted. The Climate Alliance calls upon our state leaders to ensure a rapid and equitable approach to mitigating and recovering from COVID-19 that will lead to the long term resilience of working people, low-income, and communities of color and sets us on a path towards a just and sustainable future for generations to come.
Coalition Partner Quotes on what defines an Emergency Justice response and a Just Recovery from COVID-19:
Rich Stolz, OneAmerica: “A just emergency response is one that includes everyone, regardless of their immigration status, and that focuses on those most vulnerable to the negative impact of COVID-19 and the associated economic crisis. This is basic common sense. A recovery from this pandemic will require a massive response; so let’s take action by upending business as usual and instead prioritizes the health of our environment and communities, invests in a more resilient economy, and that shifts power away from corporations to communities most impacted by the societal injustice laid bare by the pandemic.”
Edgar Franks, Familias Unidas por la Justicia: “For us as farmworkers, a just response would be to ensure that the historic injustices that have existed and brought us to this point don’t keep occurring. We see this as a moment to transition away from a bad economy and environmental practices and where the knowledge and experience of workers are listened to. We believe that in order to achieve justice that we must fight and organize for it. The coronavirus has exposed the current system as unsustainable and unable to meet the basic needs for survival. We need a new political, economic, and ecological plan to move forward post-virus.”
Faye Guenther, UFCW 21: “A more humane and equitable future will require a new vision that has more women, people of color, workers, local community leaders and scientists helping to make our policies, not just CEOs, Senators, and Wall Street. We will be more resilient and healthy as a country when we level the playing fields of power – worker and employer, ratepayer, and utility, tenant, and landlord.”
Alyssa Macy, Washington Environmental Council and Washington Conservation Voters: “In crisis, problems that go unseen are often revealed. This pandemic has made us reflect and re-evaluate many things in our lives – our relationship with our health, the value of nature and the outdoors, and our responsibility to each other. One thing that has become abundantly clear, the status quo is not good enough. Elected leaders must address the challenges – public health, our economy, the environment – with a vision that helps us to realize a just, sustainable future. Right now, what we crave most is some sense of normalcy. But the worst thing that can come out of this crisis is that nothing changes.”
Mark Vossler, MD, Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility: “Since the current pandemic is primarily a crisis of human health, a just recovery must promote health and safety of all people. Since economic inequity was driving worsening health outcomes prior to this crisis, we must, as a society, do everything in our power to narrow the economic gap and ensure that low-income workers and communities of color do not once again bear a disproportionate burden in what is a global problem.”
Jalyn, Student at St. Martin’s University in Olympia, WA: “To have a just recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, we would need to serve the low-income communities and communities of color that have been disproportionately affected. We need to work to create a healthy environment and a green economy.”
Jill Mangaliman, Got Green: “As much as COVID-19 is a public health crisis, it is an environmental injustice. There is a clear link between long-term exposure to air pollutants and increased COVID-19 death rates. People of color and working-class people disproportionately live near polluting industries, have respiratory and underlying health issues, and are less likely to have access to health care. These injustices are not new, and this crisis has only shed more light on them. The Just Recovery we need is the just transition of our economy to one that guarantees access to healthy food, health care, living wage, green jobs, healthy housing, and healthy environments for communities.”
Larry Brown, Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO: “In the short term, emergency justice means keeping all frontline and essential workers safe and maintaining critical public services during the COVID-19 economic downturn. In the longer term, it’s never been more clear that we all need access to affordable health care and we need government at all levels to be better prepared for the next crisis. It will take the same sense of urgency that many elected officials have demonstrated, the same ingenuity and creativity of our workforce, and the same passion and dedication of frontline workers to tackle the climate emergency as it has the COVID-19 pandemic. We can do this.”
Deric Gruen, Front & Centered: “Together, we have an opportunity to decide whether we respond to this global crisis through piecemeal reform, or systemic transformation. To achieve a just transition, we must follow the leadership, knowledge, and expertise of communities disproportionately impacted, ground the work in respect to each unique place and community, and mount an economic response that’s purpose is meeting needs of people within a healthy environment. By rooting the recovery in climate and environmental justice, we can realize an equitable Washington and create the foundation required for everyone to thrive as part of healthy communities.”
Sterling Harders, SEIU 775: “Caregivers and the people they care for are not just more vulnerable to COVID-19, but by virtue of being disproportionately people with disabilities, people of color, and low-income, are also more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. The new normal will look different when we come out of this pandemic, but old normal didn’t work for all of us – we need a society that supports everyone and our environment, and that’s what we’ll be fighting for.”