The pandemic is a wakeup call to live with Nature #EarthDay2020

We have no choice but to live with Nature #EarthDay

While we mourn and fall sick and live in anxiety, Mother Earth is sighing a breath of relief. And fresh air. This virus may be horrible for us but everywhere else the earth is healing.

Our actions now will define our future as we navigate this unprecedented crisis. We are being forced to look at not just climate change but our very relationship to Nature as we witness in stark focus our sick and our dead.


Water is directly tied to our health, safety, and economy. Since the coronavirus, rivers are purifying after decades of pollution.

These environmental concerns tied to public safety are also highlighting economic inequality and how the privileged in society have access to basic needs, like water. Hand washing is essential for any virus and especially during this COVID-19 epidemic. Yet, we cannot do this if we don’t have clean water and clean water starts with access to clean water sources, keeping lands intact around water sources.

“In the United States, about two million people lack access to running water, indoor plumbing, or wastewater treatment. In many rural and urban areas, communities of color and historically marginalized communities are disproportionately impacted, with limited access to clean, safe and affordable water.” (American Rivers)

Black and indigenous communities in the United States, the lower castes and tribals in India, the tribals and indigenous of Brazil, the Kurds and non-majority Muslims in Iraq, whoever is in power has access to the most basic of needs. On the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, as we face an epidemic as a world community, as we face it as a nation, let’s remember that we must shift priorities and outlooks towards each other and our environment.


Worldwide air quality has significantly improved in recent weeks and drastically so in nine major cities across the globe according to a new report produced by Swiss company IQAir that pulled together government data from Delhi, London, Los Angeles, Milan, Mumbai, New York City, São Paulo, Seoul, Wuhan, and Rome.

Delhi saw up to a 44% reduction in PM10 air pollution levels on the first day of its restrictions, India’s Central Pollution Control Board found. People in northern India saw the Himalayas for the first time from their homes. 85 cities across India saw less air pollution in the first week of the nationwide lockdown.


With half the world’s population on lockdown, wild animals are roaming freely in cities and regions usually bustling with people. Some of this information isn’t true: dolphins and swans didn’t enter Venice canals; drunk elephants didn’t pass out in China.  As this 2016 research shows, the spread of social phenomena is so powerful that it can follow the same models that trace the contagion of epidemics.

But, many other reports are true for obvious reasons. Due to overpopulation that leads to development in the natural habitat of animals, these animals are reclaiming their land as people are forced to stay inside. Coyotes walk through San Francisco, wild monkeys brawl over resources in Thailand; goats window shop in Wales; deer roam Japan; turtles that were almost extinct and other species are reproducing like never before.

Great Orme Kashmiri goats on the streets of Llandudno, Wales.Credit…Andrew Stuart


Instead, Trump has done the opposite and used the coronavirus as an excuse to continue the deregulation of environment he began since taking office.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a sweeping suspension of its enforcement of environmental laws Thursday, telling companies they would not need to meet environmental standards during the coronavirus outbreak.  This is a so-called temporary policy, with no end date.

Recently, right before the epidemic hit the United States, Trump challenged EPA water rulescreated a loophole to allow pipelines to avoid environmental review, and axed Obama’s signature climate change policy, the Clean Power Plan.

Overall, a New York Times analysis has found that the Trump administration has rolled back nearly 100 environmental rules and regulations. Its actions have made it easier to drill in wildlife refuges, slashed regulations meant to combat overfishing, and narrowed safety assessment requirements for potentially toxic chemicals.

In the 24 hours since the EPA freeze:

  • a private company is set to take over inspection duties at a Tyson Foods beef slaughterhouse
  • Obama-era rules have been rolled back raising fuel-economy standards on new vehicles aimed directly at California
  • review has begun of a proposed 211-mile road that would cut through a portion of Alaska’s Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve and open up an area rich in copper, zinc and other minerals

These environmental deregulation has nothing to do with the coronavirus or concern for public safety. It has to do with Trump and his administration’s rulebook of benefitting corporations and rolling back any Obama-era policies or laws. As of December 2019, Trump had set back and deregulated over 95 environmental laws and policies.


Here’s the reality. We have been brought to our knees by the coronavirus, and the worst has yet to hit, economically and in terms of lives lost. Mother Nature could care less if we made it through this. We as a species are responsible for our own survival. We must learn. And the moral of the story is that we must live alongside the environment and not treat it as a commodity.

The current administration does not see this message as plain as it is. If we do not shift directions now, what is already a tragedy of epic proportions will signal the decline of our way of life as those nations who will figure out how to live more with the environment are healthier, more resource-laden, and prosper economically and as a society as a result.

Congresswoman Deb Haaland (D-N.M.), vice chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, outlined three major laws she’s authored in an op-ed today:

As American Rivers states, “we must invest in clean water and healthy rivers to improve public health and our economy.” How can we wash our hands for up to 20 seconds if millions of Americans don’t even access to running, clean water?

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting major to moderate flooding in 23 states this spring. If a flood threatens a community during a coronavirus “stay at home” order, where will people turn for safety and shelter? With scarce resources and supplies, how will communities, states and the federal government respond to both flooding and the epidemic?

American Rivers recommends:

Congress must act to prioritize healthy rivers and clean, safe, affordable water for all. This should include, for the duration of the pandemic emergency, a ban on water shut-offs nationwide and restoration of water services for anyone without access.

Congress must also increase water infrastructure funding to ensure clean water and sanitation for communities most in need, and increase funding for innovative, cost-effective solutions that strengthen communities in the face of flooding and other impacts of climate change.


These inequities have been fatally reflected in the loss of black and brown lives as the coronavirus rages on. The New York Times predictions have come true: “the vulnerabilities of resource-strapped minorities…[has had] devastating consequences.”

Sandra Blackshear received oxygen treatment to help with her coughing and wheezing. She had only just started hearing about coronavirus.Credit…Alexandra Hootnick for The New York Times

Recent reports show black people comprise 32% of Louisiana’s population—but a startling 70% of the coronavirus deaths. In its first release of racial data, New York City reported that Hispanics died from COVID-19 at a rate of 22 per 100,000 and black people died at a rate of 20 per 100,000—double the rate of white people.

Worst hit has been Chicago where black Chicago’s African Americans are dying at a rate nearly six times greater than white residents. About 68% of the city’s deaths have involved African Americans, who make up only about 30% of Chicago’s total population, according to the Chicago Department of Public Health.

And that’s not even the full picture. Until last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and most local health departments weren’t releasing data on race. Many still are not.

Senator Elizabeth Warren ran the first intersectionality focused campaign and specifically mentioned the toll environmental issues have on black communities. As Teen Vogue reported:

Elizabeth Warren is paying attention, and it shows in the environmental justice plan she released this week. Her plan is informed by the 17 Principles of Environmental Justice, an equity-based framework written by activists of color in 1991 that no presidential administration has acted on to date.

Nelini Stamp, Working Families Party director of strategy and partnerships (Teen Vogue)

Senator Warren has been one of the Democrat’s primary architects of the stimulus package and roadmap out of this pandemic crisis — and she continues to highlight intersectionality factoring in this inequality.

In her recent New York Times April 8, 2020 op-ed outlining her plan forward to tackle this crisis, she pointed out that intersectionality is key to this plan: “Early data shows people of color are infected and dying at disproportionately high rates.”

We are not the owners of Nature but part of it. We cannot even thrive or survive if we do not acknowledge how we are interconnected. This is not a clarion call to return to some pure state or start hugging trees. It is a matter of survival. Even from a purely selfish standpoint, if a significant portion of the population gets a disease due to lack of access, they will spread the disease to everyone else.

In other words, Mama has had just about enough. She tried to warn us. Fires, volcanoes, you name it, we lived through it as climate change red flags were ignored. Finally, she’d had enough of the New Age, gentler approach and went fire-and-brimstone, plagues-and-scorpions because she did not have any more time for our tomfoolery. It’s time we listen.

Despite deaths and mumps outbreaks, doctors arrested and denied entry into detention camps to provide vaccinations

Protests have been ongoing this week after U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) denied doctors’ requests to give flu vaccines to detained migrants. Three of the six children who have died under US custody died of the flu in overcrowded, unhygienic detention camps.

Despite the conditions and these deaths and warnings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), federal authorities prevented doctors from entering the premises to administer flu shots. Six doctors were arrested.

Doctors for Camp Closure, an organization that opposes the detention of migrants and refugees attempting to enter the United States, protested with upwards of 70 people, including physicians, outside the Chula Vista, California, facility Monday.

A History of Negligence by the US Government and CBP

A June report by the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general that found inhumane, disease-prone conditions at the centers, with immigrants packed in standing-room-only areas with limited access to baths.

In August 2019, as reported by CBS News, doctors associated with Harvard and Johns Hopkins called for an investigation into health care at border facilities months ago in a letter to members of Congress. The letter came in response to the deaths of six migrant children either in government custody or soon after their release.

Later that same month, a report by the CDC detailed at least 931 cases of mumps at CBP and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facilities . The CDC called for immediate reform of the camps and vaccinations.

“In general, due to the short-term nature of CBP holding and the complexities of operating vaccination programs, neither CBP nor its medical contractors administer vaccinations to those in custody,” a CDC spokesperson said in a statement. 

A spokesperson from ICE said, will administer flu vaccines, alongside other vaccines, when requested.

The request was given this week by Doctors for Camp Closures — and denied.

“This is intentional cruelty. People are needlessly suffering and dying. You can’t lock people up in inhumane conditions, watch them get sick, and then refuse them access to medical care,” said Marie DeLuca MD.

At least three of the children died from the flu, according to autopsies. The doctors wrote in their letter that flu deaths “are fairly rare events for children living in the United States.” That’s nine times the mortality rate of the general pediatric population, according to Doctors for Camp Closure.

The three children who have thus far died of the flu are:

Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, 2018:  8-year-old Felipe Alonzo
Image result for wilmer vasquez
April 2019: 2-year-old Wilmer Vasquez 
May 2019: 16-year-old Carlos Hernandez Vásquez, just a week before what would have been his 17th birthday

Several healthcare providers —supported by Doctors for Camp Closures (D4CC), Families Belong Together (FBT), and Never Again Action, as well as advocates, fellow physicians, and local community members— will continue rallying through this week to demand a meeting with CBP. They hope to discuss the urgent need for immigration officials to end their policy of denying detained migrants access to routine flu vaccinations.

Medical neglect by the US Border Patrol causes the death of a migrant teen, Carlos Vasquez

On May 19, 2019, Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez, a 16-year old Guatemalan migrant was taken into custody by US Border. Last week, a video obtained by ProPublica shows Border Patrol officials held the sick teen, who had already been diagnosed with a 103-degree fever by a nurse, locked in a concrete cell without any medical attention where his condition worsened. He died by the next morning and his body was not discovered until his cellmate alerted guards. 

Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) acting commissioner at the time, John Sanders, called Carlos’ death a “tragic loss.” However, this damning video shows that guards ignored him despite an obviously ill Carlos, writhed in pain, vomited blood, and collapsed on the floor where he lay for four-and-a-half hours until his cellmate notified guards when he discovered Carlos’s collapsed body in the morning.

“Why is a teenaged boy in a jail facility at all if he is sick with a transmissible illness? Why isn’t he at a hospital or at a home or clinic where he can get a warm bed, fluids, supervised attention and medical care? He is not a criminal,” said Dr. Judy Melinek, a San Francisco-based forensic pathologist who reviewed records of Carlos’ death at the request of ProPublica.

Carlos crossed the border along with 144,000 other migrants. Once in custody, he was separated from his adult sister to be processed at the McAllen processing center. That warehouse was already beyond capacity. When a nurse diagnosed Carlos with possible flu given his high fever and chills, rather than take him to a hospital and notify his sister, he was put into isolation to avoid contaminating other held migrants.

Children and teenagers crossing the border illegally without parents or guardians generally must be placed with the Office of Refugee Resettlement at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) within 72 hours. But in May, HHS and CBP were at overcapacity.

In a spot check soon after Carlos died, the DHS inspector general reported that a third of the 2,800 unaccompanied minors in CBP custody in the Rio Grande Valley had been there longer than 72 hours.

Why are any children or people seeking asylum in cages as if they were inmates? Also, the agency held Carlos for six days, though the agency is supposed to transfer children within 72 hours. Within 72 hours? That is not acceptable.

The entire legal framework of the processing and holding of migrants is unacceptable, unethical, and a human rights violation as designated by the United Nations. More information as to the laws and regulations can be found here.

The question must be asked:


The border situation has changed since Carlos’ death. As reported by ProPublica:

  • CBP now has 250 health staffers at its facilities across the Southwest
  • Border Patrol cells have largely emptied out since July.
  • HHS is building out its shelter capacity from 15,000 beds to 20,000, with emergency influx facilities that can handle thousands more.
  • The number of migrants crossing the border has declined sharply due to the Migrant Protection Protocols program, which sends them to wait in dangerous Mexican border cities while U.S. courts consider their immigration and asylum claims.

John Sanders resigned soon after Carlos’s death, citing unprepared agencies and an unresponsive Congress that allowed children in custody to suffer in harsh conditions

“I really think the American government failed these people. The government failed people like Carlos,” Sanders said. “I was part of that system at a very high level, and Carlos’ death will follow me for the rest of my life.”

When I say RIP, I mean Rest In Power. Carlos’ and other kids’ deaths and abuse and trauma should not be in vain. When will Congress respond?