Greetings from New York, where we are entering our second week of social distancing, and now a statewide lockdown. We closely followed news of covid-19 as it spread through Asia, Europe, and now the U.S., and we are experiencing the disruptions others across the world have already experienced.
Our Pure Earth team is having regular meetings to provide emotional support to each other and to colleagues who have loved ones in the medical field fighting this threat on the front lines. Being there for every team member — albeit from a distance — giving them space to express their anxieties, and to offer some comfort is a high priority for me right now.
I am heartened watching China beginning to return somewhat to normalcy. There is a light at the end of this tunnel. And although our field work is suspended in the short-term, and we spend our time planning future projects and documenting recent work, I am confident we will all be back out there soon working to reduce the slow-moving, health-destroying pollution epidemic we’ve been battling for 20 years.
It is a unique time with the entire world focused on our collective health and exposure to a pathogen. I can’t help but see parallels to the pollution-fighting work we are doing.
Journalists have been reporting on the reductions in air pollution levels around the world due to the economic shut down from the pandemic. As Pure Earth supporters, I know you agree that if we can take such dramatic collective, cooperative action to save lives in the short-term, surely we can adopt broad collective actions to change industrial practices to cleaner, safer methods in the long-term. After all, we are talking about 9 million pollution-related deaths each year, every year, and 275 million years of life impacted by disability.
Once this pandemic has resolved, all of us in the global health, environment and climate arena will be working to harness this new realization of what is possible when we take bold action to protect health for the greater good, but especially to protect the health of all children and all those babies yet to be born. My team has been focused on this for two decades, and we look forward to an acceleration and greater collaboration in these efforts in the next 20 years.
Wash your hands and stay safe.
Richard Fuller, President, Pure Earth