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Celebrating Earth Day 2021

April 2021

(Washington, DC):  Benjamin F. Wilson, Chair of the Environmental Law Institute’s Board, and Scott Fulton, ELI President, released the following statement today, Earth Day 2021:

This is a big week in the life of this country and the world. In Minnesota, Tuesday brought accountability to a White police officer who ended the life of a Black man in front of the entire world. The relief that the judicial part of the justice system was up to the task has been quickly followed by the ponderous question of how to reform policing so that those charged to protect are no longer the perpetrators of senseless — or ruthless — death.  

Much work remains to be done. Dr. King was proud of the effectiveness of the Montgomery Bus Boycott but no doubt knew more remained to be done. Thurgood Marshall must have granted himself some satisfaction after the announcement of the Brown decision. But surely he knew more remained to be done. And there were those who believed that Barack Obama’s historic wins in 2008 and 2012 signaled the advent of a “post-racial society.” Sadly, recent events have demonstrated unequivocally that this is not the case.

In sum, Tuesday’s “Verdict,” like other monumental efforts that preceded it, merely set the example of what must be done to uphold the Rule of Law. We still have work to do. 

And it’s challenging work. How do we reverse currents that were set in motion hundreds of years ago that have become deeply woven into our social fabric and economic order?  

This question is, in a sense, quite similar to the one considered by the Climate Summit that is beginning today. Here again, the objective cuts against currents of the Industrial Age that have become ingrained in our social fabric, economic order, and everyday lives. The so-called “nationally determined contribution” — or national greenhouse gas reduction target — that the United States is announcing today will require meaningful change in most aspects of economic activity in this country and in our basic systems for powering our homes, offices, and mobility. And those changes will need to be realized in a manner that helps correct the environmental facet of our country’s race challenge — environmental justice. Our emergent, climate-protective construct needs to overcome the differential access to environmental quality that has flowed with discriminatory patterns in housing and economic development that have historical roots and real modern impacts on health and quality of life.       

Bucking the tide of time is never easily done, but it is doable — if we set our intention right, stride into and past resistant winds, and apply our very best thinking. This is the work of Earth Day 2021.