52 Years of Earth Day and There’s No Time to Waste
It’s Earth Day 2022.
You may notice the hashtag “#ClimateJusticeIsSocialJustice” trending on your social media feeds. The fight for climate justice has always been a fight for environmental and health justice, just as the fight for environmental and health justice will always be a fight for climate justice.
You can’t have clean air with polluting vehicles on the road; you can’t have clean water while rolling back environmental protection guidelines; you can’t have healthy people while making them live in unhealthy environments.
If you’re not thinking about it day in and day out, it may be difficult to understand what climate change means for Connecticut and its residents, yet everyone has seen and felt the evidence.
In the summer, living in or driving into a city, you feel the heat hit you when you roll down a car window or are out for a walk. Homeowners and visitors to the shoreline may notice roads flooded due to abnormally high tides that are occurring more often. You might be swatting away mosquitoes more often and brushing off more ticks on hikes in the summer, sometimes well into fall as the season stays warmer for longer. People with asthma and allergies may find it harder to breathe on certain spring days when pollen fills the air earlier in the season.
The climate crisis has been impacting several indicators that affect the health of Connecticut residents, including:
- Temperature: increasing the number of high heat days and associated emergency department visits for heat-related illnesses.
- Extreme weather events: higher occurrences of heavy rainfall events in certain states, while simultaneously causing extreme droughts in others; an increase in high tide flooding; and an increasing number of weather disasters (severe storms, tornadoes, hurricanes).
- Infectious diseases: higher transmission of mosquito and tick-borne diseases.
- Air quality: more days with unhealthy pollution levels & ground level ozone, particulate matter from wildfires and vehicle emissions, and increased allergens.
While the climate crisis affects us all, it affects some more than others.
Frontline communities - typically communities of color, Indigenous communities, and those of lower economic means - deal with the more serious consequences of the climate crisis. It’s critical to remember that these communities hurt “first and worst” by the climate crisis and environmental & health injustices are the ones least responsible for causing these issues.
- Are more likely to live and raise families in areas with poor air quality.
- Are more likely to live in areas affected by extreme weather, and least likely to have the resources to recover from these events (such as a lack of flood insurance, or inadequate health insurance to recover from disaster-related health issues).
- Are less likely to have the resources and means to adapt to weather extremes, such as not being able to afford air conditioning in the summer or heating oil in the winter.
- Have higher incidence of extreme heat-related complications and deaths.
This is a critical moment for climate change, environmental justice, and health justice advocates, activists, and allies to come together.
At the first official Earth Day in 1970, people from all walks of life - lawmakers and grassroots activists, students and teachers, non-profit organizations and big businesses, Democrats and Republicans - rallied against the “oil spills, polluting factories and power plants, raw sewage, toxic dumps, pesticides, freeways, the loss of wilderness and the extinction of wildlife” affecting their communities.
52 years later, we’re still fighting some of the same fights while rapidly adapting to a warming and changing planet. Protecting the health and safety of our family, friends, neighbors, and environment is possible once we understand the interconnectedness of our work.
There is no time to waste.