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Climate Crisis Weekly: How did US politicians recognize Earth Day (or not)?

  • How did high-profile US politicians acknowledge Earth Day? Their responses are telling.
  • The Florida Aquarium has reproduced coral, which may save the world’s third-largest coral reef.
  • Climate change undercuts improvements in air quality, says the American Lung Association.
  • And more…

Wednesday was the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, and people all over the world took part in virtual activities and made statements about the importance of protecting our planet, which is the whole point of Earth Day. So how did US leaders and legislators mark Earth Day (or not)? We took a look at some tweets:

President Donald Trump planted a tree. He talked a lot about his 1 trillion tree initiative and national parks opening up (the parks opening isn’t really relevant to the concept of Earth Day, but OK).

Words that were NOT said at the ceremony: Climate. Climate change. Green energy. (Oh, and the Trumps, the Pences, the interior secretary, and the EPA head didn’t practice social distancing.)

Former presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) wasn’t very impressed with the tree planting gesture. Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders have agreed to work together on climate issues as part of Sanders’ endorsement of Biden’s candidacy.

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) tweeted:

Vice President Mike Pence: Spoke at the tree-planting ceremony (about trees), posted nothing on Twitter.

US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY): Nothing on Twitter. No statements that I could find.

Former vice president and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden tweeted multiple times:

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi tweeted:

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) talked about trees on Twitter, and he was at the ceremony. (Electrek’s Take: The Republicans’ only plan is trees. Trees are great, but they’re not going to single-handedly solve climate change — especially when fossil fuels are getting a boost and the EPA is rolling back regulation after regulation.)

The Senate Democrats hit hard against the current administration:

And finally, the Senate Republicans tweeted what was basically a holding page. Who knows what they meant by “energy innovation”?

The Florida Aquarium in Tampa has made a breakthrough that may help save the world’s third-largest coral reef, the Florida Reef Tract. The reef is under siege by warmer water, acidification, and Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease.

Researchers have successfully reproduced ridged cactus coral in a laboratory. It’s one variety of species that was rescued after the 2014 disease outbreak. The parent corals came from the Florida Keys in a rescue project led by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries.

Scientists are now breeding and reproducing the adult coral colonies in the hope that they can restore the reefs once the disease is gone.

The American Lung Association’s 21st annual State of the Air report warns that climate change is undercutting decades of regulatory progress that has reduced pollution. This is because more frequent and intense heatwaves and wildfires are leading to more days with dangerously high levels of ozone and particulate matter.

The American Lung Association reports:

The “State of the Air” 2020 report adds to the evidence that a changing climate is making it harder to protect human health. The three years covered in this report ranked among the five hottest years on record globally. High ozone days and spikes in particle pollution followed, putting millions more people at risk and adding challenges to the work cities are doing across the nation to clean up.

Nearly 5 in 10 people — 150 million Americans or approximately 45.8% of the population — live in counties with unhealthy ozone or particle pollution.

The Clean Air Act must remain intact and enforced to enable the nation to continue working to protect all Americans from the dangers of air pollution.

If you click on the link above, you can go to the pull-down menu on the page to select your location to view data by state, county, and metropolitan statistical areas.

Did you know that Pope Francis is an environmentalist, recognizes climate change, and wants the world’s nations to act urgently to stop it? He wrote a major encyclical in 2015 on the defense of nature and the dangers of climate change.

On Earth Day, Reuters reports, the pope said:

We see these natural tragedies, which are the Earth’s response to our maltreatment. I think that if I ask the Lord now what he thinks about this, I don’t think he would say it is a very good thing. It is we who have ruined the work of God.

We have sinned against the Earth, against our neighbor and, in the end, against the creator.

He also said it was necessary for young people to “take to the streets to teach us what is obvious, that is, that there will be no future for us if we destroy the environment that sustains us.”

You don’t have to be Catholic, or even religious, to appreciate Pope Francis’ message, if you care about our planet.

Speaking of young people taking to the streets, environmental activist Greta Thunberg delivered her Earth Day message as well in a streamed event (you can watch it in full here). Thunberg and environmental science professor Johan Rockström met for a digital conversation about courage, solidarity, and opportunities in times of crisis, which was streamed from the Nobel Prize Museum in Stockholm.

She made the point that two crises — the climate crisis and the coronavirus pandemic — now had to be tackled at once:

Whether we like it or not the world has changed, it looks completely different from how it did a few months ago and it will probably not look the same again and we are going to have to choose a new way forward.

Here’s Bloomberg’s Quick Take of Thunberg’s streamed event if you don’t have time to watch it in full:

There was another, more sobering, anniversary this week, and that was the 10th anniversary of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Actor and environmental activist Ted Danson wrote an op-ed for CNN on why that oil spill should have been a wake-up call, and how he came to be an activist. You can read his op-ed in full here, but here’s an excerpt:

My interest in ocean conservation began on a day in 1987 when I decided to take my daughters — who were four and eight at the time — swimming at the beach near our home in California. We were running toward the water when we were stopped by a sign that read, ‘No swimming, ocean polluted.’

The same was true 10 years ago, when beaches along the Gulf Coast were coated in oil, and tourists stayed away. We can’t let that happen again. We need to tell this administration to halt its reckless plan to expand drilling.

Parents should never have to explain to their children that they can’t go swimming because their government sold out their oceans to the highest bidder. If Trump’s drilling plan moves forward, we face oil spills, industrialization, ecological degradation, and the destruction of a way of life. That’s on top of the pain so many are already suffering because of our current crisis. That would put us in a worse place indeed.

#FridaysForFuture looked a little different this week, as things change rapidly under the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic. In short, more masks. But many, many people, fortunately, still persist in the fight for our planet. And we will continue to spotlight them.

Michael Bloss in Stuttgart, Germany:

Linda Lara-Jacobo in Mexico:

And poignantly, Milan, who has been one of the hardest hit by COVID-19. It translates to: “We won’t go back to normal, because normality is the problem!”

Check out our past editions of Climate Crisis Weekly.

Photo: Richard Gatley/Unsplash

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Avatar for Michelle Lewis Michelle Lewis

Michelle Lewis is a writer and editor on Electrek and an editor on DroneDJ, 9to5Mac, and 9to5Google. She lives in St. Petersburg, Florida. She has previously worked for Fast Company, the Guardian, News Deeply, Time, and others. Message Michelle on Twitter or at Check out her personal blog.