In his most recent annual letter, former New York City mayor and Bloomberg Philanthropies founder Michael R. Bloomberg urges communities, cities, states, businesses, nonprofit organizations, and philanthropy to take action to address climate change, gun violence, the opioid epidemic, and the higher education affordability crisis in America.
Included as part of Bloomberg Philanthropies' 2019 Annual Report, the former mayor's letter stresses what he calls, citing Leonardo Da Vinci, "the urgency of doing." "It's been clear for a long time that we're in a race against time on climate change," writes Bloomberg, "but over the past year, it's become clearer just how far behind we've fallen. The most recent scientific evidence shows that the climate is changing even faster than previously expected, bringing more deadly and destructive storms, wildfires, and droughts. Millions of people around the world have seen that evidence with their own eyes and in their own lives."
To help address the problem, Bloomberg Philanthropies, in partnership with the Sierra Club, launched the Beyond Coal campaign in 2011 with the aim of closing coal-fired power plants in the United States. In the eight years since, Bloomberg writes, more than half of all coal-fired power plants in the U.S. have closed or committed to closing and the number of Americans dying from coal pollution annually has declined from 13,000 to 3,000. Not satisfied with that success, Bloomberg announces in the letter that the campaign will work to close every remaining coal-fired plant in the U.S. by 2030, and that through Beyond Carbon, a new $500 million campaign he recently announced, the foundation is committed to ending America's dependence on gas and oil and accelerating its transition to a 100 percent clean energy economy.
Lessons from the Beyond Coal campaign, Bloomberg writes, also will be applied to "another issue that Washington has ignored: gun violence." After applauding the work done on the issue by Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, both of which have received extensive support from Bloomberg, the former mayor expresses his hope that "more cities and states will pass common-sense gun measures that protect people, and we will be better off in two years than we are today — with safer communities, fewer senseless tragedies, and fewer guns in dangerous hands."
The mayor also addresses the opioid epidemic, which in 2017 claimed the lives of more than 47,000 Americans. In his letter, Bloomberg advocates for a cooperative public-private approach to the problem and calls out his foundation's support for such efforts in two of the hardest-hit states, Pennsylvania and Michigan. Access to quality educational opportunities, or lack thereof, is a factor in many of these so-called deaths of despair, and Bloomberg notes that in many of the top colleges nationwide more students come from the top 1 percent of the income scale than from the bottom 60 percent. At the same time, support for public colleges and universities is falling, with state funding for public two- and four-year colleges declining by more than $7 billion since 2008. To address the problem, Bloomberg Philanthropies, through its American Talent Initiative and CollegePoint program, is spearheading efforts to make college more accessible for low- and middle-income students.
A common theme in all these efforts, writes Bloomberg, is the need to support and strengthen the capacity of local leadership willing to take action. "Every day," he writes, "the window for avoiding the worst impacts of climate change grows smaller, more Americans lose loved ones to opioid overdoses and gun violence. More students miss out on a good education and the opportunity to go to college. And communities that were once home to thriving industries slip further behind in the changing economy. Proposing ideas for 2021 isn't good enough. We need to get things done in the here and now, and I'm lucky enough to be in a position to help that."
(Photo credit: Bloomberg Philanthropies)