Mighty Earth and the Coronavirus – A Letter from CEO Glenn Hurowitz

Dear friends,

I hope you and your loved ones are well. I wanted to write to provide an update as we navigate the Coronavirus pandemic at the same time that we continue our mission to secure a living and healthy planet for Nature and people.

First, we have taken and are taking a number of measures to protect our staff and partners. We closed our Washington D.C. office on March 11; and it will remain closed until it is safe for people to return to work. Staff travel and in-person events have been cancelled, postponed, or moved online. We are staying focused on the health and well-being of our team and community.

I’ve been really impressed with how our team and partners are figuring out how to continue their critical work, but of course, many people are facing family, logistical and other limits. We are grateful for the whole community’s understanding.

While we’ve had to shuffle plans, we also feel renewed urgency on our work:

  • We must prevent future pandemics. The kinds of destructive practices we seek to end – agribusiness giants clearing forests, poachers and black markets facilitating the illegal wildlife trade – continue to bring people into contact with wild animals and, sometimes, new diseases. Coronavirus itself may have come from a bat via a pangolin, a highly endangered species. Before that, Ebola and AIDS most likely originated in consumption of bushmeat that becomes more common with the displacement of both wildlife and people when rainforests are razed for plantations.  In our discussions with companies and governments, we are emphasizing that while everyone is dealing with the immediacy of this crisis, we must use the attention on this issue to address the root causes – and that means that ending deforestation cannot slip from focus. Food demand has surged in this crisis: Companies must act now to end all links to deforestation so they’re not fueling the next pandemic. And governments must dramatically increase funding for conservation. I will say that while there are exceptions, we’ve been impressed that many big companies are continuing to take serious action on deforestation, climate and sustainability during this crisis, and we’re seeing some major steps forward.
  • The Climate Crisis is Still Here. America and the world need to address this pandemic and all of its impacts in many ways, including by providing direct support to communities and people in need, and providing access to health care. While the Senate stimulus package achieves many of these goals, it also includes a variety of bailouts funds for corporations that could subsidize some of the worst polluters, instead of much-need financial support for local governments, communities and individuals in need. The clearest example is approximately $50 billion in giveaways and loans for airlines – even though airlines have consistently blocked real action on climate.

House Democrats had included a groundbreaking provision that would have made the aid conditional on airlines achieving carbon neutrality, but this position was abandoned in Senate negotiations. Without these conditions, we’re not learning from the success of the past: back in 2009, the auto bailout was conditioned on a dramatic increase in fuel efficiency for cars and trucks that is delivering gigaton scale climate reductions.

We want to make clear that climate voters don’t find polluter bailouts acceptable, and that our leaders shouldn’t let polluters use crises like this to lock in destructive business models. Internationally, we are working with allies to ensure other bailouts create a healthy, sustainable economy for the long term.

While most people are hunkered down, and we’re working virtually, the environmental movement cannot go into hibernation. We know that our opponents have not. The world that emerges on the far side of this pandemic will be changed – and it’s up to all of us to shape that even in this time of great challenge.

Wishing you health, solace, and hope,

Glenn Hurowitz
CEO, Mighty Earth