The COVID-19 pandemic has changed life as we know it. Even as we rightly focus on the immediate challenge of saving lives, steps are being taken that will determine whether we will look to the future as we rebuild or return to practices of the past that have made this crisis more acute.
As many have said, the response to one existential crisis should not end up fueling another. Indeed, studies show that civil societies and organizations can come out better at the end of a crisis if they use the opportunity to innovate and rebuild in a different way.
Colorado can and must be a leader to show how the nation and the world can rebuild better.
That means building an economy and a society that center public health and the environment as common benefits that merit caretaking. It means that we value what science tells us, disrupt the false choice between people and profits and end the systematic oppression of certain groups, most notably people of color.
And where better to lead by example than Colorado, where our natural beauty is the pride of all, our clean energy economy helped us recover sooner and stronger from the Great Recession, our young population has both high standards and high energy, our small businesses are our economic backbone, our research institutes are world class and the connections between our mountain and rural communities are strong.
Bold leadership like that coming from an innovator such as Gov. Jared Polis during the COVID moment gives us hope that Colorado can and will seize the moment.
As I talk with my teenage daughters about what this crisis means for their future, often they are the ones reassuring me that they “will do it better.”
I urge our leaders and all Coloradans to start rebuilding better by evaluating whether the policies that they are considering abide by the universal standards of health, equity and security.
Let’s consider, will this policy improve the health of our communities today and in generations to come? Will it protect the health of our environment and natural resources like our air, water, land, and wildlife? Will it reduce the pollution that causes climate change, an existential threat to all our communities’ health?
Will this policy provide sustaining, good-paying jobs with high labor standards? Will it disrupt and address the systemic inequities that made some more vulnerable to COVID-19, especially in communities of color?
Will this policy accelerate our move toward a net-zero carbon economy?
We’ve seen our streets without traffic and our air with less pollution. Will the policy of the future embrace this as a new possibility to tackle climate change – which still threatens our world security – now and for generations to come? Will it build economic security for those who face the most economic insecurity, like working families, communities of color, and for future generations?
Let us not be the first to leave future generations with worse health and a poorer environment, less equity and less security. Together, if we are innovative and centered in sharing these core values, we can find hope in a brilliant future.
Kelly Nordini is executive director of Conservation Colorado.