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Lane Turner/The Boston Globe via Getty Images (2020)

Public officials in the United States, and specifically in my home state of Florida, have long been at odds with public health professionals on executing a robust response to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Over the course of this year, their inaction has catalyzed widespread loss throughout our communities. In my case, as for many others, the impact hits close to home.

I Know Science has been a natural part of my day-to-day thoughts for nearly a decade. It is the name of my mother’s business and, ironically, it also suggests the underlying failure that forced its demise. My mother made the difficult decision to permanently close the business during the unchecked proliferation of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, I find myself struggling to utter the once-lively chime. …


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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), center, and Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.), left, are set to unveil an ambitious package of climate proposals on Tuesday. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Recommendations for Congress to address the climate crisis, advance justice, transform the American economy, and protect public health.

On June 30th, the US House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis released Solving the Climate Crisis: The Congressional Action Plan for a Clean Energy Economy and a Healthy, Resilient, and Just America. The report outlines policy recommendations through which the House and Senate may effectively address the diverse risks posed by the climate crisis in a way that advances justice and equity, benefits workers and the national economy, all while protecting public health.


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[iStock/Lyubov Ivanova]

It is without question that systemic injustices and corruption have become especially salient throughout the course of the coronavirus pandemic. Public consciousness and civic action are soaring amidst record levels of unemployment, sensationalized video exposing the horrific realities of police brutality, and intensification of the climate crisis.

Climate change, which scientists have come to an overwhelming consensus is caused by emission of greenhouse gases by human activity, is recognized as a threat-multiplier. As such, risks associated with climate change overlap with and exacerbate political, social, economic, and human health issues.

Well stated by Rosemary DiCarlo, Head of Political and Peace-building Affairs for the United Nations…


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Only about 411 North Atlantic right whales exist, so every animal lost is a blow to the species’ chance of surviving. [The Conversation/Nick Hawkins]

Carbon dioxide is naturally present and cycling through the atmosphere, oceans, soil, plants, and animals. However, untapped human activity has interfered with natural cycling and produced an overabundance of this heat-trapping gas.

Throughout human history, technological and industrial advancements have increased carbon dioxide levels through pollutant emissions and destruction of natural carbon sinks. Carbon dioxide has amassed a great deal of public attention because there are a number of feasible, highly favorable alternatives to the practices that have exacerbated this excess, and in turn, global warming.

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, carbon capture and sequestration is a multi-step process that uses technology to reduce the excess of carbon dioxide that has been emitted into our atmosphere. …


Microplastics, as indicated by their name, are tiny bits of plastic that measure less than 5mm in diameter. That’s less than the size of a small green pea!

According to The Ocean Cleanup, approximately 1.2 million tons of microplastic waste are generated each year; one-fifth of which comes from North America alone.

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The results of picking up plastic fragments along 22 meters of Oregon Coast at Cape Perpetua during a Eugene Natural History Society Beach Clean Up. [Flickr/Wolfram Burner]

There are two main types of microplastics. Primary microplastics are intentionally produced, often for consumer products used to take care of your skin and keep up with the latest trends. That’s right! Cosmetics, specialty soaps, clothing and other textiles are among the most common sources of primary microplastics.


There is no doubt we are all becoming increasingly conscious of our surroundings and beginning to question behaviors we never second-guessed before.

Amidst the unprecedented public health risks posed by the novel coronavirus, public administrators, elected officials, businesses, and consumers are taking part in rapid change. We find ourselves clinging to the media for updates on the federal relief programs and coordination of local and state-level responses; but are flooded with alarming projections, unproductive partisan debate, and stories of failures to distribute the needed personal protective equipment or support the exacerbated needs of marginalized communities.

We’ve been somewhat forced into harnessing the power of technology to continue fulfilling our responsibilities and restraining from new purchases by making the most of all we already own. International adherence to strict social distancing guidelines and stay-at-home orders has helped to “flatten the curve, “reducing the spread of the coronavirus, while also reducing atmospheric pollution. …


On Tuesday, February 11th, U.S. Senator Tom Udall and U.S. Representative Alan Lowenthal introduced unprecedented federal legislation to address the plastic pollution crisis.

[Michael Brochstein / Echoes Wire/Barcroft Media via Getty Images]
[Michael Brochstein / Echoes Wire/Barcroft Media via Getty Images]
Sen. Udall discusses the introduction of the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act of 2020 in Washington, D.C. (Michael Brochstein/Echoes Wire/Barcroft Media via Getty Images)

“We have a responsibility to act now before the overwhelming public health, environmental, climate and economic effects of plastic pollution reach the point of no return. Our solutions are not only possible — they are practical and are already being implemented in cities and states across the country, including in my home state of New Mexico. But we need a comprehensive, national strategy to tackle this tidal wave of pollution before it is too late. We must drive the innovation necessary to break free from this unnecessary, toxic waste stream that is also accelerating the destruction of our planet via climate change. This bill calls on all of us, from companies to communities, to address this crisis head-on so that we can create a plastic pollution free world.” …


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We’ve broken up with plastic bags, bottles, straws, and cutlery. Now stats are pointing toward a more abundant, detrimental pollutant.

Plastic bags, bottles, straws, and cutlery have long held the spotlight of targeted plastic pollution. However, statistics indicate there’s another — arguably more damaging — culprit for waste-related decline in ocean health.

Cigarette butts, also known as filters or ends, are intended to store some of the chemicals that smokers inhale — not enough to help smokers’ health, but enough to leach out in marine environments and kill fish.

According to local surveys and national reports, cigarette butts are the most abundant form of waste left behind by beach-goers across the globe. Of the six trillion cigarettes smoked worldwide each year, an estimated 4.5 trillion butts are tossed directly into the environment. In the United States, “smoking-related debris” make up over one-third of all the anthropogenic waste found on beaches, and in rivers and streams. …


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Shutterstock

It’s no question that buzz about a “Green New Deal” has been increasingly circulating; especially in this last year since the release of the Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 °C by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The comprehensive climate solutions called for by the IPCC are unparalleled in scope by any collection of policy mechanisms implemented in human history. Arguably, this tremendous wake-up call-to-action effectively emboldened global climate ambition and reinvigorated public attention on the idea of a Green New Deal.

Pulitzer-Prize-winning journalist and esteemed author, Thomas Friedman was the first to publicly describe the need for such a sustainable transformation. As early as 2007, he championed the concept of a “Green New Deal” that would stimulate renewal of the global economy through the proliferation of “green technologies,” more so than by the surge of information technology in the late twentieth and early twenty first centuries [New York Times]. …


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APTOPIX India World Environment Day

Information about the detrimental effects of plastic waste has certainly captivated global attention. Individuals across the globe are increasingly seeking plastic-free alternatives and striving for more sustainable waste management in their communities. In fact, the threats posed by the plastic pollution crisis are widely recognized alongside the implications of climate change; however, the foundational links between these two major areas of concern are often overlooked or unrecognized.

Emission of excessive heat-trapping greenhouse gases is the primary driving force exacerbating the progression of climate change today. Water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and ozone gas possess the unique ability to absorb infrared radiation and re-radiate it back to Earth’s surface; producing a warming “greenhouse” effect. According to a report released by the Center for International Environmental Law earlier this year, greenhouse gas emissions from the plastic life cycle significantly threaten our ability to keep global temperature rise below 1.5°C. …

About

Natalia Brown

ecosystem science + policy student, energy justice researcher, climate activist, amateur gardener + endorphin junkie.

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