As we speak, Congress is working on a fourth, potentially several-trillion-dollar, COVID-19 stimulus bill, and this one will include infrastructure. We were not prepared for COVID-19, just as we are not prepared for climate change. Around the world, significant environmental improvements have been noted in just these few short weeks since COVID-19 sent us all home. This is our once-in-a-generation chance to make significant investments in the infrastructure of the future, not the past, so that we can "bend" the climate change curve that threatens to destroy life as we know it on the planet.
The COVID-19 relief bills enacted so far have all been reactive, with no long-range plan or vision for sustainable recovery. Without significant public intervention, this one will be reactive as well.
I crafted the following letter to our delegation as well as Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. For anyone who might be so inclined, feel free to use any or all of this to contact our delegation or any other leaders you would like. They need to hear from us now. We will all be paying the debt accrued by these bills for the rest of our lives. Let's at least make the debt worth the money.
If there is to be a fourth coronavirus relief bill that includes infrastructure – and I hope there will be since we have been underinvesting in our infrastructure for decades – then it must be shaped with climate change in mind, not just the same old priorities (roads, bridges, airports, etc.). We need to build back better, not the same. The Earth has gotten a reprieve from the unsustainable pressure we exert on her resources due to this terrible virus. We need to seize this opportunity to reshape how we impact the Earth, while simultaneously creating millions of good-paying jobs for those who desperately will need them when we are able to get back to work. We need investments in the following:
- A high-speed rail network that can connect major cities all over the U.S., with smaller arteries that reach smaller cities nationwide.
- Home energy retrofitting, including assistance to lower- and moderate-income Americans to make the changes needed to make their homes more energy efficient, electric rather than gas heated, and less costly to maintain.
- Advanced recycling and waste disposal infrastructure.
- Regional transportation networks for rural areas including park and rides, buses, vans, etc., preferably that connect to transportation hubs with rail access.
- Renewable electricity generation (wind and solar).
- Industrial waste cleanup.
- A green energy grid.
- Rural broadband.
- Clean drinking water and green septic infrastructure.
- Green construction incentives.
- Fuel-efficient hybrid and electric vehicle incentives.
- And, of course, a huge investment in bridge and road repairs (although we should limit expansion of our road system in favor of more sustainable transportation alternatives).
This coronavirus pandemic is a harbinger of much more destruction and dislocation to come in the near future if we fail to take immediate steps to reduce our carbon footprint and reverse climate change. Our lack of preparation for a major pandemic is costing thousands of unnecessary deaths and trillions of dollars in economic losses. We must seize this opportunity to do what we have resisted for decades – prepare for the even bigger global crisis to come from climate change. Doing so will help American workers and the economy right now and into the future, in addition to securing our future! It’s a win-win.
Bordonaro lives in Moretown, Vermont.