"...do even more to protect the only home we have. This is not just a practical responsibility – this is a moral obligation, and there is no time to waste."

“Forty-seven years ago, when I was a young naval flight officer stationed near San Francisco, I was fortunate enough to join tens of thousands of my fellow citizens in Golden Gate State Park to celebrate our nation’s very first Earth Day. That day was a transformative experience and one that has served as an inspiration to me ever since.

“Forty-seven years ago, our world was a different place. Back then, rivers were so polluted that they would spontaneously catch on fire. Polluters were allowed to spew dangerous arsenic, sulfur and mercury into the air and dump toxic waste into our waterways without consequence. Thick smog enveloped our communities and garbage littered our shores.

“The first Earth Day was a much-needed wake-up call and a reminder that we must take care of the only planet we have. Just months later, Republican President Richard Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency because, as he noted, ‘The Congress, the Administration and the public all share a profound commitment to the rescue of our natural environment, and the preservation of the Earth…’

Since its establishment in 1970, the EPA’s mission has been to protect the environment and public health, and the agency has been so successful that we have the luxury of forgetting what life was like before the EPA. Our progress has made some people forget why we celebrated Earth Day in the first place.

“But we cannot forget. Yes, we have made incredible strides forward since 1970, but that was the result of hard work and an unyielding commitment to leave a better world for our children and grandchildren. Today, our planet is facing new and even greater threats – a changing climate that is causing extreme weather events around the globe and threatening us all, but especially the world’s most vulnerable populations. Meanwhile, we have an administration that, in both words and deeds, is making clear that dealing with the greatest environmental challenge of our lifetime is not a priority. Today, the 47th Earth Day is just as important as the first.

“We cannot abandon the progress we have made, and we cannot stop fighting to make our world a better, safer, healthier place for everyone. On this 47th Earth Day, we must recommit ourselves to the efforts that we know are working in states and local communities across the country and to doing even more to protect the only home we have. This is not just a practical responsibility – this is a moral obligation, and there is no time to waste.”