These uncertain times have me reflecting on my core values, my hopes and dreams for the future and bold ideas that can inspire profound shifts in human behavior and thinking.

One of those ideas is quantum entanglement. Quantum entanglement was first discovered in 1935 and, at the risk of oversimplifying, it means that everything is connected. This is not some flaky, Star Wars “Force” thing — it is pure physics. Einstein called it action at a distance. The bottom line is this — when you affect one part of a system, the other parts are equally affected, even if they are separated by tremendous distances.

This is especially relevant during the coronavirus pandemic, a virus whose most profound feature is an assault on our lungs, which often requires ventilators to prevent death. Ventilators provide essential life support for many COVID-19 victims.

Unfortunately, there is no ventilator for the Earth, whose “lungs” are also being assaulted — not by a virus — but by us. Decades of carbon emissions and deforestation have adversely affected the Earth’s ability to “breathe.”

Forests and jungles are the lungs of the Earth. They contain the majority of trees that breathe in carbon dioxide and breath out oxygen. I am sure there are some who will say it is a stretch to suggest that our assault on the Earth’s life support contributes to threats on human health. But the science shows strong connections between human health and the health of the planet.

For example, studies already have shown the reduction and elimination of air-quality laws have caused a dramatic increase in respiratory illnesses. Not surprisingly, the cities and communities with poor air quality are more vulnerable to the coronavirus. Furthermore, many other viruses, including the coronavirus, occur when humans consume or otherwise come into contact with wild animals.

A growing body of scientists from many different fields understand a profound and simple truth — if the Earth suffers, humanity suffers too. These times elevate our awareness and (along with other progressive political movements) appreciation for safety nets to protect the vulnerable — whether they are public health, social or environmental safety nets.

Unfortunately, many of our environmental safety nets are in the process of being systematically torn apart. The Earth is not the only victim. The air we breathe and the water we drink are becoming increasingly dangerous, and at an alarming rate. Though these safety nets have been weakened, they can still be strengthened and provide a bulwark to help us heal.

As we commemorated the 50th anniversary of Earth Day last month, WildEarth Guardians did so with a somber reckoning that we have not heeded planetary health warnings early or well enough. Therefore, these times require ever more profound shifts to realign our commitment to the Earth and our mutual well-being.

WildEarth Guardians laid out its vision for sustaining the Earth. It calls on leadership at all levels of society. This vision is also grounded in the belief that the ultimate fate of our economy and our ecology are inextricably connected.

We must create new, more resilient energy systems that not only solve the climate crisis but also put people back to work. It is time to revive the Civilian Conservation Corps so we can put people of all ages, but mostly young Americans, back to work on the task of healing our lands, water and wildlife. It’s a job that can firmly bind together our diverse peoples and heal our division. We can heal ourselves while engaged in the work of healing damaged ecosystems.

We believe that systemic problems such as the climate crisis require bold solutions that only national and global leaders can drive. In particular, we believe that both the U.S. Department of the Interior and the Department of Agricultural must play leadership roles in shifting our relationship to the Earth from exploitation to protection.

If the Earth and humans are to thrive in the next 50 years, we need to recommit to the bold vision that first inspired Earth Day. We also need to honor the simple truth that only when we take care of the health of the planet will our own health be ensured.

As was the case in the past, in order to make this vision a reality, we need to reach millions of Americans — guardians — who demand bolder leadership from themselves, their communities and the leaders we all elect.

We need people to recognize that, wherever they are — in Colorado, California or New Mexico — they have the power to effect change in Washington, D.C. It’s called action at a distance, and it just might save our planet.

John Horning is executive director of

WildEarth Guardians.

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