Should we care about conservation during a pandemic?



More than ever we need nature and its benefits. COVID-19 has both exposed and exacerbated deep injustices in access to green spaces. Those of us lucky enough to have our home away from the front lines appreciate even more the mental and physical health that nature walks and vistas offer.

Those in less privileged communities find themselves in a double whammy of air pollution exacerbating the disease while lacking the green space so necessary for resilience, health and well-being.

Many things have changed with the pandemic and many of us take a glimmer of hope from the news of cleaner air, lower CO2 emissions and the Resilience and rebound of nature and wildlife given the human retreat into our homes. But one thing hasn’t changed: even with falling vehicle and industrial emissions, the threat posed by the climate crisis remains as great as ever.

According to NOAA, 2020 is still on track to be that warmest year on record. We must expect natural disasters, droughts, diseases and other dangers deteriorate over the next few years and to harm disproportionately Latinos and other communities of color.

We can mitigate the impact of current and future disasters, mitigate the climate crisis and bring so many more benefits by protecting, restoring and creating green spaces that are accessible to all. City trees, for example lower the rate of asthma in children, maintaining temperatures comfortable from the heat in summer and wind in winter, absorb air pollution and CO2 emissions, reduce energy costs, lower risk of flooding, Improving water and soil quality, less stress and noiseand make sense of community and vitality for neighborhoods. A… have outlook You can even send trees home from the hospital faster and healthier.

At a time when we are concerned not only about our health but also about our jobs, it is worth noting that habitat restoration projects create a large number of jobs for the money spent. One study found that for every million NOAA spends on coastal habitat restoration, 17 jobs created more than twice as many jobs as coal, gas and nuclear energy. Also with one wetland nearby can boost the economy, reduce losses from flood damage, and provide the same benefits as urban trees.

It’s clear that green spaces, ranging from our glorious national parks to the neighborhood parks where our children play, can serve as a cost-effective fast track to reducing the burden of inequality faced by poorer and communities of color. In addition, they can keep us healthier in the face of COVID-19.

One way to quickly boost the economy, strengthen our health, and protect and maintain access to nature is the Great American Outdoors Acta bipartisan Senate bill that would fully and permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and address the maintenance backlog on our public lands. Seventy percent all voters and 69 percent of Latino voters in western states support full funding for the LWCF. If passed As part of a stimulus package, this measure would create jobs, relieve governments struggling to keep basic services running, alleviate overcrowding on public lands when quarantine measures are lifted, and connect children, families and everyone else to the benefits of the great outdoors. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced that the Senate would take up the bill in June.

Another way to protect and expand our green spaces is with the movement to conserve 30 percent of U.S. land and sea by 2030. This “30×30” initiative could take its first step with state-level legislation and programs to how they have been introduced California, South Carolina and Hawaiito conserve 30 percent of the state’s lands and waters by 2030. Seventy three percent of Western voters also support the national initiative 82 percent Latinos.

COVID-19 will not be the last disaster we face as a society. But we can reduce its impact and that of future disasters with holistic conservation policies that include pollution reduction and the protection and restoration of land and water, with justice and access for all.

Shanna Edberg is director of conservation programs for the national nonprofit Hispanic Access Foundation. Follow her on Twitter: @shannaedberg.

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