A standing ovation. That is what Gina McCarthy, former US EPA administrator, received at the Pure Earth benefit on Earth Day in New York City.
McCarthy was a special guest at the benefit focused on “Pollution Solutions,” showcasing the cleanup work Pure Earth has done in some of the world’s worst polluted places. She reiterated the oft-forgotten fact that pollution is one global problem that can be solved, if only we worked together. That was one of McCarthy’s key messages made clear while cutting through the politics surrounding the issue with force.
“The truth is that pollution impacts Republicans and Democrats. It is nonpartisan. It is indiscriminate in terms of the lives that it impacts and the injuries it visits on our children,” said McCarthy.
“Where pollution is concerned, let me paraphrase a movie line here — I am mad as hell and I’m just not gonna take it anymore.”
The crowd roared.
In this audience — filled with Pure Earth supporters and experts including Dr. Philip Landrigan, one of the world’s leading experts in lead poisoning and co-chair, along with Pure Earth President Richard Fuller, of the landmark Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health; John Keith, an environmental engineer who has spent his career traveling around the world implementing life-saving cleanups; and Dr. Jack Caravanos, NYU professor in global public health who is training the next generation of environmental leaders, and heading research for Pure Earth — McCarthy’s passion was felt and shared.
It was an audience that understood the difficulty of getting global decision-makers to focus on the pollution crisis, along with the climate change conversation. With her experience inside and outside government, McCarthy offered some insight:
“If we just think instead of dividing the pollution world into conventional and climate … we can actually do something about it.”
“Why are we not looking at climate change through the health lens? … Let’s look at how we use the money to invest whether it’s in pollution or carbon pollution. And let’s look at joining forces.”
She urged action here in the U.S. to lead the way on new contaminants, including the thousands of toxic chemicals that we are just starting to learn more about.
“While in the U.S. we enjoy blue skies once in a while, and when we turn on that tap we’d expect with half confidence that clean drinking water will come out, we’re still, in many ways, falling significantly behind on the investments that we need to make, especially as it relates to emerging contaminants — creepy things being found in water that’s never been known before.”
“We are facing a complacency and a callous disregard in Washington, D.C. for all the progress we’ve made so far.”
Pure Earth President Richard Fuller embraces Gina McCarthy’s passionate speech.
Her conclusions? While we have lots of work to do here at home and abroad, the outlook is positive.
“We have a path forward to a just and sustainable future. Let’s grab that opportunity. It will make a difference not only in the life of a child, or a family or a village, It will make a difference in the lives of your children, your family, your future, their future.”
Thank you Gina. We needed that.