A message from EDF's president on the 50th anniversary of Earth Day

Earth and sun

Fifty years ago, I helped organize a program for the first Earth Day at my high school in Verona, New Jersey. At that time I couldn’t have dreamt that in the years to come I’d have the extraordinary honor of working with so many passionate community, nonprofit, government and business leaders, citizens, and philanthropists to make the world a better place.

Right now our focus is on all of those suffering from the COVID-19 crisis. But even in the midst of this devastating pandemic, the 50th anniversary of Earth Day is still a moment to celebrate the progress the environmental movement has made. This progress gives me hope for the future.

In many places around the world, our air and water are cleaner. The establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency made the environment a national value and priority. Fisheries are returning from the brink of collapse. The ozone hole is on the mend. Fewer toxic chemicals are on our shelves. And many young people today have never heard of acid rain.

Fifty years ago, we were on a disastrous path. Today, conditions for human health are vastly better and millions of lives have been saved.

Five decades ago, I also could not imagine the complexity of the challenges we face today. People in many communities, especially the most vulnerable among us, continue to suffer from deadly pollution at alarming rates and feel the devastating effects of climate change most acutely.

The COVID-19 pandemic shines a spotlight on these disparities. We must ensure that those who are impacted the most have a powerful voice in the difficult decisions that lie ahead. And we must look to the new generation of leaders who are bringing moral clarity to the climate crisis.

The course of the past 50 years has made our mission even more important and our impact has grown with the challenges we face. Together we will continue to meet those challenges and find the ways that work. We have no choice but to succeed.

Fred Krupp