Voices for Action

Coronavirus Can’t Mean a Pause for Pro-Environment Advocates

For many of us, the coronavirus is bound to change our lives in ways we can’t yet appreciate. For others, its impact may already be severe – as stories of layoffs, isolation, and sick family members abound. This is a moment where we’d be best served by listening to the better angels of our nature. Said another less Lincoln-y way, maybe we should all just chill out and try to be cool for a hot second.

I hoped that we would be able to adhere to that advice. While the Democratic presidential primary ads have stopped, politics hasn’t. In fact, organizations that oppose climate action are still at it, targeting pro-environment lawmakers with millions of dollars of negative ads. Classy, no – but impactful, well, perhaps.

As the media professionals at Bully Pulpit Interactive point out in a great summary of the landscape, media consumption has increased exponentially as more and more cities are implementing shelter-in-place policies. Meanwhile, traditional advertisers are pulling back as the economy worsens. When was the last time you watched television and didn’t see a car commercial? You may soon, as auto industry players are cutting ad buys. 

At the same time, political ads are taking their place. In Colorado, pro-climate candidate John Hickenlooper is under assault by a dark money group with ties to the Koch network that is spending $500,000 on television ads. In Michigan, pro-environment Senator Gary Peters is facing a $1 million television assault funded by the family of Trump’s Education Secretary Betsy Devos (who refuses to be pinned down on a climate change position). Nor have the digital ads slowed down. In fact, Americans for Prosperity Action, the Koch network super PAC, is on Facebook trying to shore up support for anti-environmental candidates like Senator Cory Gardner as well as in other states like Montana and North Carolina.

Yet, it isn’t just ads, the Trump Administration is continuing to work behind the scenes to roll back critical environmental and science protections, even as this public health crisis spreads rapidly. All of this is happening in an unprecedented time for America.

As uncomfortable as it may feel to press on while America struggles through this health crisis, we can’t make the mistake of pausing our work and ceding the ground to science deniers – particularity while millions of Americans are spending more time glued to their TV and computer screens. And we won’t. We’ll stay as active and as vigilant as ever, even if the team is scattered about, working from couches, around our kids and dogs, and keeping a safe distance from our neighbors.

Those of us working on climate change must try to keep advancing climate policy and working to help those who will stand up for climate action. Of course, the coronavirus demands immediate attention, and together we’ll get through this national crisis. But the important climate work can’t stop, because the extreme storms, hurricanes, droughts and heatwaves won’t stop hitting our communities. We can’t allow climate solutions or our environmental allies to fall victim to the coronavirus.

The climate crisis still looms large, even while the immediate COVID-19 crisis plays out. Our fight to protect the health of American families and our natural heritage must continue.