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21 April 20233 minute read

Earth Day 2023: Converging on action in an environmental era like no other

A message from our Environmental practice chairs

As the weather turns toward spring in the Northern Hemisphere, we exchange our winter clothes for the summer versions, diligently scrub our homes, begin planting our gardens and otherwise demonstrate our commitment to a new season and a new start.  While April heralds spring in our personal lives, the month also brings Earth Day, a ceremonial time to focus on the environment that sustains us and all life. 

Earth Day began on college campuses in 1970 and its appeal has broadened to all facets of the public and private sector, all levels of government and is now recognized in 190+ countries around the globe as the world’s largest environmental movement. Echoing the wide adoption of its themes and the broad, inclusive tent that welcomes supporters of all backgrounds, the 2023 Earth Day theme calls on all of us to “Invest in Our Planet” and “engage governments, institutions, businesses, and the more than 1 billion citizens who participate annually in Earth Day to do their part – everyone accounted for, everyone accountable.”

“Our friends and colleagues in the corporate world, themselves world citizens, come to the environmental movement with strong personal and moral commitments, driving needed change.”

As co-chairs of DLA Piper’s US Environmental practice, the two of us arrive at Earth Day 2023 from different paths. Gwen came to the private sector after years of government service, culminating in roles at EPA, as Regional Administrator and then Chief of Staff in Washington, DC. George’s practice has comprised decades navigating environmental law for industrial and products companies from his California home, including years representing a nation in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Over the course of our careers in environmental law, we have seen and had the honor to work alongside environmental champions in government, nonprofit organizations, and industry.

From our disparate starting points, we find ourselves having converged in an environmental era like no other before it. Our understanding of how our activities impact the environment is exponentially more acute than in years past, but so is the resolve – from all sectors – to address it. Our experience tells us that, while we may approach the issue of creating a safer planet from different perspectives, analyzing those differences through the lens of prioritizing building partnerships will yield the greatest and fastest results.  As in any successful endeavor, diversity is our key to success.

We are all familiar with the role governments and environmental advocates have played in the quest for a safer planet. However, it is important to recognize, as this year’s theme suggests, the investments that businesses across the spectrum have made in protecting our climate and planet.

Our friends and colleagues in the corporate world, themselves world citizens, come to the environmental movement with strong personal and moral commitments. They leverage their roles with their employers and engage with their business communities to drive needed change. Whether focusing funds on research and development for safer chemicals, spurring innovative emission and discharge monitoring techniques to increase transparency, proactively engaging and building trust with fence line and environmental justice communities, or committing to and implementing strong SESG standards that support cleaner operations, our partners in the business community continue to make significant investments for the benefit of our planet every day.  

We arrive at Earth Day from our different coasts and backgrounds, having refreshed our wardrobes, tilled our gardens, and cleaned our house (well, sort of), and confident in the resolve of our colleagues and clients – from all sectors – to push forward as leaders in addressing the crucial environmental issues of our time.

Together we are embodying the Earth Day organizers’ call “to act (boldly), innovate (broadly), and implement (equitably).”