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Environment Groups Come Together for 50th Earth Day

Courtesy The Nature Conservancy

Many of New York’s largest environmental groups were not going to let the 50th anniversary of Earth Day pass without a celebration. Organizations ranging from the Adirondack Council to Sierra Club to Audubon Society and many more wanted to rejoice in progress the state has made.

There’s plenty to celebrate as Earth Day turns 50, the groups say, in how New York State has often led the nation in environmental policy. There is the recent Climate Protection Act, clean water and infrastructure measures, and a ban on methane-producing shale gas extraction. The Nature Conservancy’s Jessica Ottney also says lawmakers put $300 million in the Environmental Protection Fund this year, which pays multiple dividends.

“From outdoor recreation to fishing and agriculture, to tourism and forestry, people don’t often think that protecting nature is about jobs, but engineers, construction workers, and other trade workers are needed to restore natural areas and to build parks and clean water projects. Investing in our environment is good for our well being and great for our economy.”

She cites a Nature Conservancy study that suggests a one-dollar investment in green projects returns seven dollars to the state’s economy in salaries, tourism and taxes.  

Andy Bicking of the group Scenic Hudson is asking people to support an even larger investment. The upcoming election will include a three billion-dollar bond act to solve a range of issues, after the coronavirus crisis eases.

“These investments are critical in order to protect our communities and ensure that our children and grandchildren are afforded the same or better opportunities than we have had. When the pandemic is under control, we will still need to ensure clean drinking water supplies, protected farms the supply us with fresh food, buildings that are clean, safe and efficient, parks and community gardens that make our cities, town and villages better places to live, and measures that protect us from heat waves, severe flooding and storms which are unfortunately becoming more common.”

The groups thought Earth Day was a good time to ask voters to support the “Restore Mother Nature Bond Act” in November.

(Comments from state lawmakers, Adirondack Council, Clean Healthy New York, Alliance for Clean Energy, Parks and Trails New York, New York Sustainable Business Council and others here.)

Cecil Corbin-Mark with the group WE ACT for Environmental Justice suggests many problems, such as air pollution, are concentrated on marginalized communities.

“What that means is that communities like East Harlem El Barrio and the east and west sides of Buffalo, both communities of color, are among the state’s highest with asthma rates and incidents of hospitalizations, and the premature deaths that those communities can sometimes experience. It’s also a contributor to their high incidence of being infected by the COVID-19 virus. Our environmental policies must, moving forward, as recognition of this 50th anniversary of Earth Day, uplift these communities first and foremost.”

Earth Day in New York did not include the usual rallies or tree plantings or school teach-ins, but groups came together virtually to celebrate progress that has been – and could be – made in the spirit of the first Earth Day in 1970.