Happy Earth Day! The theme this year is "Restore our Earth.” One of the ways we can “Restore our Earth” for all its inhabitants is by prioritizing environmental justice. Environmental justice is also a critical part of our response to climate change and a major priority for this administration and for NOAA. I shared my thoughts on Earth Day and on our environmental justice initiatives in a new video message. I hope you take the time to give it a look.— NOS Acting Assistant Administrator Nicole LeBoeuf (Video Transcript)
Steady as we go,
Greetings everyone, and Happy Earth Day! I’m Nicole LeBoeuf. As Acting Assistant Administrator for NOAA’s National Ocean Service, I am thrilled to have this opportunity to honor our planet — approximately 70% of which consists of the ocean. This year’s Earth Day theme is “Restore our Earth”, offering us a reason to celebrate and to reflect. Our Earth is a beautiful, complex planet. From the smallest microbe to the largest mammal, Earth’s living organisms and ecosystems rely on clean air and water and intricate relationships that are threatened by a variety of environmental stressors, including climate change. On this Earth Day, I am hopeful that our Nation is on a path to acknowledging the rapid changes in the natural world and to taking steps to remedy environmental damage.
And, the way I see it, the benefits of environmental remedies can and should go hand in hand for both people and the planet. And, on this Earth Day, I am also feeling hope about what we call environmental justice. Environmental justice is a term used to describe the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people — regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. We need environmental justice because natural and manmade environmental hazards don't affect all humans equally. For example, studies have shown that people of color are disproportionately exposed to and negatively impacted by pollutants.
In addition to renewed interest in facing the challenges of climate change, several new executive orders solidify the U.S. government’s commitment to make environmental justice a priority. In fact, I have been asked to represent the Department of Commerce on a White House-led interagency council on Environmental Justice, and I am so pleased to be involved in this work. I know that environmental justice is something that we at the National Ocean Service take very seriously. We are expanding the scope of grant requests to include diversity, equity, and inclusion considerations. We are working to create more education and fellowship opportunities for minorities and at Minority Serving Institutions. We are engaging underrepresented communities and students in marine conservation and stewardship through mini-grants. And, beginning last year, NOS announced competitive grant awards for tribes, territories, and underserved communities.
Our NOS workforce is proud of these efforts, and is committed to creating even more initiatives that address environmental justice in the future. Given the interconnectedness between the health and well-being of not just the planet, but its people too, on this Earth Day, I ask you to take a few minutes to pause and think about what we can all do to restore our Earth and its human residents. Each effort, great or small, has an impact, and I’ll bet that your efforts will not just restore others, but will be restorative for you as well. Thank you, and Happy Earth Day.