As Prepared for Delivery
Thank you, Dr. Lubchenco, and thank you all for joining us. Earth Day is about the relationship between people and the environment. It’s about celebrating the myriad ways in which the beauty and bounty of nature benefit people — and it’s about learning how we, in return, can care for our natural world.
In the words of scientist, author, professor, and member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, Dr. Robin Wall Kimmerer, “The relationship between self and the world is reciprocal… As we work to heal the earth, the earth heals us.”
We see this all around us: Trees and forests cool our cities. Wetlands protect communities from floods and landslides. Mangroves absorb carbon dioxide from the air, helping us slow climate change.
There is a deep relationship between the natural world and humankind. We know this, thanks to decades of scientific evidence and centuries of Indigenous Knowledge.
We also know, thanks to social science, that access to nature’s beauty and bounty is not equitable. So Earth Day is also about acting on this knowledge, to ensure that every community can access, benefit from, and give back to our natural environment.
Science also helps us know that when we hurt nature, we hurt ourselves — because the loss of nature is harming us and our ability to thrive. And we aren’t the only ones who see it.
For one, recent surveys show that many business leaders view nature and biodiversity loss as one of the most severe global risks over the next decade — ranking higher than infectious diseases and geopolitical confrontation. And they are right to be concerned. For instance, crops that feed millions — worth nearly $580 billion worldwide — are threatened as we lose more of our natural pollinators, like bees, whose populations have been declining for years.
Moreover, the uneven loss of nature in the United States and around the world has created an unhealthy living environment and major inequities, particularly for more vulnerable populations. Nearly 5 million people die every year because of air pollution — including up to 200,000 people in this country. A disproportionate number of those deaths come from historically marginalized and underserved communities. These same communities also face higher risk from fires, floods, and heat waves.
These are only some of many ways that people, nature, the climate, health, equity, and the economy are connected.
For a long time, too many decision-makers — including in businesses, governments, and other sectors of society — failed to take these connections into account. But now, many realize that they too have a stake in protecting and restoring nature.
President Biden understands how important it is to recognize and strengthen these connections. And in the last 14 months, the Biden-Harris Administration has taken bold, unprecedented, science-based steps to address the interrelated issues of climate change, equity, environmental justice, and economic prosperity — with commitments to: conserve 30 percent of U.S. lands and waters by 2030; sustainably manage 100 percent of our ocean waters by 2026; support Tribally-led conservation and restoration, including through wider application of Indigenous Knowledge; and much more.
We in OSTP are deeply proud to contribute to these actions. Yet we know more work is needed.
This week — Earth Week — we are excited to join with colleagues across the Biden-Harris Administration to announce several new policy initiatives that will improve our country’s ability to understand, account for, and find solutions in nature.
I want to thank everyone at OSTP who’s been contributing to these initiatives, our dedicated colleagues and counterparts across the Administration, and the experts from outside government whom you’ll hear from today. All have been great partners in seizing the opportunities presented when we take nature seriously.
These initiatives will strengthen our ability to tackle the climate crisis, drive economic prosperity, and address historic inequities in how the American public is able to access, know, and benefit from nature.
And, this is only the beginning. There will be more to come between this Earth Day and the next.
The Biden-Harris Administration believes in choosing science over fiction. At the Office of Science and Technology Policy our duty is to look to the future, and help build a nation where policy follows the best evidence.
As we look to that future, the science is clear. The evidence leads us to nature — and the knowledge that when we preserve and protect nature, it will in turn do so for us: helping us to grow our economy for everyone, achieve equity and environmental justice, and protect our climate and our health, for all of America.
With that, I’ll turn it back over to Jane.