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Earth Day through the prism of COVID-19
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Lytle Troutt
President, Resilient Environments at Wood

Today is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, an event observed in cities around the world to highlight the need to protect our environment. The first one, held in the United States in 1970, is not only credited with launching the modern environmental movement, it also led to the creation of landmark environmental laws. These include the Clean Water, Clean Air and Endangered Species Acts in the US and, eventually, similar regulations in many other countries.

I was 10 years old and focused on baseball and golf when the original Earth Day was held. Today, my perspective is shaped by a host of experiences and a 38-year career in engineering and environmental services. Ironically, Earth Day’s anniversary is happening in the midst of a global pandemic - something I never dreamed I’d experience in my lifetime - that is having a somewhat unexpected environmental impact. As we slow our world down and shelter in place, air quality is improving.

It’s a stark reminder that our individual actions have an impact on our world.

When I first got out of school and started my career, I moved to Birmingham, Alabama, and traveled frequently to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, both major US steel cities that had a reputation for poor air quality. Over the last decades, both of those cities, like others around the world, have worked diligently to improve these conditions.  When I see the progress that’s been made and consider the contributions of my company - not only in cleaning the air but also our soil and water - it makes me truly proud.

At Wood, we are focused on helping our clients make the world more sustainable for the future. Engineering and construction are always evolving, especially in our approach and thinking toward protecting and preserving the environment. As I see it, the opportunity right now is to think even more broadly and take a fresh, open-minded view of how we can – and should – approach sustainability, both in infrastructure and the financing that will be necessary to make it happen. I believe our clients, financiers and stakeholders across the spectrum will insist that future infrastructure, in fact, be sustainable.

It can no longer be just talk. We must start walking the talk.

The enormity of loss, pain and suffering experienced across the globe from the COVID-19 virus has been a harsh reminder that we are always susceptible to extreme and rapid change. While this has been a wakeup call for me, and for society at large, I also know that the world is resilient and so are its people. Faith, family and relationships are tops on my list of importance, and being a good steward of this earth is very much a part of who I am. So, today, I invite you to join me in rethinking the impact that we as individuals and as companies have on our planet. Together, we can live, work and play in ways that make the world a better place.

We really can make a difference. And that’s certainly something to celebrate!

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