As a medical student training to save lives, the threat of global warming weighs heavy on my conscience. While the COVID-19 pandemic wreaks havoc, and we all struggle valiantly to stop the bleeding, I wonder: Will climate change unleash the next crisis, and if so, how can we stop it?
Success in a crisis is determined by the foundation of preparedness built long before it begins. With robust planning, hard work and some luck, we can even prevent a crisis before it occurs. COVID-19 is laying bare these lessons for the world.
Lesson one: Preparation and prevention are always better than reaction alone. While we can’t prevent something like a virus mutating, we can prevent the planet from warming beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius, as recommended by scientists worldwide. We can do this by scaling up green energy and adapting human systems to consume less. Even 1.5 degrees will stir some trouble, and we must prepare for those impacts now to save lives later.
Lesson two: Communication and collaboration are vital. By definition, a pandemic is a global event, and an effective response depends on the existence of strong relationships across all sectors of society. Likewise, climate change is a threat that knows no borders. Our ability to prevent a transition to climate chaos will depend on cooperation at every level: from your neighborhood on up.
I hope you will join me in working to prevent climate change from upstaging COVID-19. Let us work together to prepare and build a better future.
Aaron Rosenblum, Minneapolis
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I can’t tell if it is an intentional bad joke of the Trump administration or just happenstance that a week before Earth Day, it used the now ironically named Environmental Protection Agency, formed a few months after the first Earth Day (by a Republican president), to loosen protections against mercury being released into the environment and to weaken the rule aimed at limiting PFAS compounds. These chemicals are linked to a number of health threats, especially to fetuses and children. This Earth Day, as we all sit at home in self-quarantine, we should take a minute to let our elected officials know that good health is about more than dodging COVID-19, and that we support keeping toxic chemicals out of our air, water and food.
Lenore Millibergity, Minneapolis
The lesser of two evils? Pick it.
The 15th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, Section 1, cites “the right of citizens of the United States to vote.” Voting isn’t a privilege that can be taken away, or licensed, or granted selectively. If an American citizen is 18 or over, he or she has the right to vote. And with that right, the responsibility to exercise that vote. To progressive Kayla Shelley, who says, “Don’t expect us ... to vote for the lesser of two evils”: That’s exactly what I expect. (“Biden faces challenge with young progressive voters in Minnesota,” April 21.) Your responsibility is to make a choice, and if you can view that choice as only “the lesser of two evils,” so be it.
To all the young people who are disappointed that their candidate didn’t prevail in the Democratic primaries, I note these facts: Your candidate has endorsed the winning Democratic candidate, some of his ideas are included in that candidate’s platform and he said many times that our main job is to defeat the sitting president. Follow his lead; endorse and vote for the Democratic candidate for president.
Elaine Frankowski, Minneapolis
Lack of coordination sounds familiar
The amazing irony of a statement by U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer and state Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, in their article about reopening Minnesota’s economy, could not escape me (“Let’s work together on a plan to reopen Minnesota’s economy,” Opinion Exchange, April 18). They stated that “the lack of public coordination, data and planning from our state’s executive” makes it difficult to know when and how to lift the “broad range of restrictions.”
It is the massive failure of the Trump administration in precisely that regard that makes their claim so ironic. I do not recall Emmer, who represents my district, saying or writing anything critical of the “lack of public coordination, data and planning” in the White House. Yet it is that very lack that has led to confusion, a shortage of vital supplies and the massive testing needed to safely reopen. Let’s have real positive and coordinated leadership from Washington. Instead it seems that President Donald Trump and his followers, with their calls to rush to reopen, are trying to turn the coronavirus infection into “a partisan pandemic,” as historian Jon Meacham put it in a recent television interview.
Gary F. Anderson, Hugo, Minn.
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Some argue that the financial insecurity and poverty caused by shutting down the economy in response to COVID-19 also harms people and can even be deadly. They are right! Public health experts have talked for years about social risks to health with plenty of data to prove the deadly threat posed by financial insecurity and poverty. In fact, a person’s ZIP code often has more impact on a person’s life span than her or his genetic code. So, my question is: Why haven’t the deadly effects of financial insecurity and poverty been a genuine concern of these people before the pandemic? After all, many of them were the same ones who regularly advocated for and supported funding cuts to Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, Head Start, the Child Health Insurance Program, housing assistance and Supplemental Security Income — programs that mitigate the deadly impact of poverty. There is a word for that: hypocrisy.
Once the stay-at-home order is lifted and the economy begins to recover, watch carefully how these people seek to address the $1.5 trillion debt incurred in 2017 to fund tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy and the $2.2 trillion debt incurred in 2020 to soften the impact of the pandemic. Watch carefully that these same people who currently and correctly bemoan the destructive impact of poverty on people’s lives don’t forget that fact and seek to reduce the massive debt burden we will face by cutting funds for programs that serve the poor and vulnerable — because doing so will cause irreparable harm; it could kill them!
Roland Hayes, Shoreview
No get-together is safe right now
I just rode my bicycle through the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. This act usually brings a sense of excitement and anticipation to me for the coming of the Great Minnesota Get-Together. Today, I felt nothing but sadness. I saw things today that I had not noticed before because of the crowds. And things I have seen countless times over 35 years took on new meaning for me. The idea that the State Fair as we know it may never be the same because of the pandemic is overwhelming.
The powers that be say the 2020 fair is still on — at least for now. Much as Minnesotans need the fair to be held, I cannot image how it could be unless a vaccine is available, which is doubtful until next year. We can and should wait until 2021, which allows time to plan and implement changes that will ensure a safe experience for everyone.
Deborah Walsh, St. Paul
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