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Letters to the Editor: A high school student’s plea — always remember the clean air of April 2020

Empty freeways
Empty freeways caused by the coronavirus economic slowdown have coincided with a sustained period of unusually clean air in Los Angeles.
(Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: I am a high school junior in Los Angeles. Every school I have attended since kindergarten has celebrated Earth Day. My generation has grown up with a constant awareness of the imminent threat of climate change. We’re used to asking for straws and paying for grocery bags. We’ve missed school on Fridays to protest at City Hall. (“Happy 50th birthday, Earth Day,” editorial, April 22)

Right now, at a time when we cannot protest or bring our metal straws to brunch, we’ve seen the most dramatic change in our environment. We’re all stuck in our homes, unable to spend our weekends crawling to the beach on the 405 Freeway, polluting the air on the way to polluting the ocean. Instead we entertain ourselves with neighborhood walks and by engaging with nature.

This Earth Day, with the planet’s human inhabitants living in frustration and uncertainty, for once the Earth itself was at peace.

COVID-19 will not last forever, but we must ensure our planet will. Always remember the clear skies over Los Angeles in April 2020 and let it guide how we act when we start returning to normal. Remember the walks we took when there was nothing else to do. Remember the government’s ability to spend on a large scale and hold lawmakers accountable the next time we ask for action on climate change.

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We must never forget the disaster that COVID-19 has caused, but we must always remember how beautiful the sky looked and how clean the air was to breathe. We must remind our lawmakers of nature’s unceasing role in our lives, with or without the threat of a pandemic.

Alexandra Cohen, Encino

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To the editor: Fifty years ago, I was in high school studying “ecology” in Los Angeles. Air quality was a lot worse, but there was a lot of optimism that we could make things better. Today, not so much.

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Sadly, the outrage over the horrendous damage done by pollution has reached equilibrium with the resistance to the “inconvenience” of preventing it. I think that will soon change.

The disastrous consequences of climate change are increasing fast; I have faith that humans will rise to the challenge once enough pain and damage has occurred. That’s why I now devote my energy to lobbying Congress, as a citizen, to take action.

Personally, I think that our best chance is to adopt a carbon fee-and-dividend program. With so many problems confronting our leaders, we must tell them that climate change is at the top of the list.

Carol Parker, Long Beach

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To the editor: Thank you for the reminder the environment need not be a partisan issue. A Republican president created the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and signed into law the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act, and another Republican signed the 1990 update of the Clean Air Act into law.

I remember the fear we felt about acid rain and the ozone layer, and then the thrill as we watched the Earth heal after aerosols were banned. We are at a similar crossroads today.

As we glimpse the catastrophic future that we will have if we choose not to avert climate change, we would do well to remember the ozone crisis: how it seemed impossible to fix until it was not, and how it was solved not by personal actions of individuals but by legislation.

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It did not destroy our economy, and it kept us from destroying this beautiful, fragile yet resilient planet.

Kelly Peterson, Los Angeles


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