There may not be a more unique place in our country than Arizona. From our deserts and wide-open landscapes to our snow-capped mountains and the Grand Canyon, our state is full of natural wonder.

In 1970, Americans united to celebrate the first Earth Day, and in doing so, helped usher in critical environmental protections that saved much of what we hold dear in our state.

As we celebrate Earth Day 50, it is important to take a renewed stake in what is at risk in Arizona, and identify the solutions we need to protect our clean air and maintain reliable water supplies. 

Arizona isn’t facing these risks alone. Across the American Southwest, communities are facing a common threat from a changing climate, and the consequences of inaction are dire.

In fact, Arizona is the fourth fastest-warming state in the U.S., and Phoenix is the 2nd fastest-warming city in our country.  Rising temperatures and reduced snowpack across the west has reduced the flow of critical water resources—including the Colorado River. 

A direct result of climate change, reduced water flow from the Colorado River puts our water supply at risk in communities across Arizona. 

In addition to our most precious natural resource being at risk, rising temperatures in Phoenix will create dryer conditions and increase the number of cases of Valley Fever.  As we work to combat the current COVID-19, we can’t afford to allow conditions to worsen and create a new respiratory crisis.

As the President and CEO of Arizona Forward, I support our organization’s 50-year history of bringing business and community leaders together in thoughtful public dialogue on the critical sustainability issues facing our state. 

Our organization is a blend of Arizonans from small business, to large corporations, municipalities, universities and state agencies.  We all share a goal of promoting cooperation to improve the environment and quality of life in our state.  As we continue to work to shape the future of Arizona, we should not be afraid to challenge our elected leaders to take on the difficult issues that we all face together. Additionally, businesses play a significant role and we must all step up. 

On Earth Day 50, I hope you join our effort to expand clean energy production, restore successful conservation practices, and advocate for changes that will reduce air pollution.  What gives me hope is that we know what solutions are needed. We just need the will now to put these policies into action. 

We need our leaders to understand that we must take bold steps today to preserve what makes Arizona so special for future generations. 

Just like our predecessors united to make progress on the first Earth Day, let’s use Earth Day 50 as our launching point to build a better, stronger and cleaner Arizona.


Lori Singleton is president and CEO of Arizona Forward.