I was 14 years old when I went to the first-ever Earth Day rally in 1970. This was also my first time participating in civic action! We were fed up with poisoned water and the very air we breathed making us sick. I was excited to play a role in saving our planet. The day was celebratory but also somber. Everyday products we were using, like laundry detergent, were killing our fish and birds. There was a solution but companies were resistant to change. We needed to persuade our government to do the right thing. And it worked! National civic pressure led to landmark laws – the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, and Marine Mammal Protection Act, and the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency all came about in the three years after that first Earth Day. Civic engagement had pushed us toward a healthier planet.
Five decades have passed. I have become more than an occasional environmental activist. As an elected official, I felt compelled to act on the injuries I was seeing to our waters, including impacts from unchecked climate change, and become a “Water Warrior” fighting to protect our water supply, our beaches, Biscayne Bay and the Everglades. We now know that we must drastically and immediately reduce our use of carbon or risk massive property destruction, dislocation of people and wildlife. I am grateful to the army of community advocates that work so hard to bring about the change we need – to get to a sustainable and zero-carbon future.
We live in paradise and we want to keep it that way. But we must work fast to change the current course and prepare our community for higher seas and more chaotic weather. We don’t have another 50 years to get it right. Our federal government is currently working overtime to dismantle many of the hard-fought protections in favor of short-term political interests. Fortunately, we have so many community activists, and private businesses that are working to bring about a better, more sustainable future. We will continue to push for sustainable and resilient solutions for our community, our State, and Nation.
Individual solutions like recycling, saving water and energy, going solar, and eating lower on the food chain are all important personal acts for the Earth, but we must heed the spirit of the first Earth Day. We need to use this annual event to celebrate our beautiful planet but also to demand that all levels of government do better by our planet. Nothing less than the health and prosperity of our children and our world are at stake.
Let’s care for one another, in our communities close to home and far away. This pandemic is a clarion call that shows us that we are all interconnected, and our actions really matter.
Commissioner Levine Cava can be reached at Daniella.Cava@Miamidade.gov