These mayors are leading the way to a fair and green recovery from COVID-19
Photo by Li-An Lim on Unsplash
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Since COVID-19 was identified in December 2019, it has spread around the world, wreaking havoc on our daily lives.

As of July 6, 2020, there have been over 11.5 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported across 216 countries and territories.

Over 500,000 people have died.

Cities and countries instituted strict lockdowns or issued shelter-in-place orders, but as we retreated indoors to flatten the curve, economies ground to a halt. Millions of people have lost their jobs. Hospital ICUs hit capacity. Inequality has been made painfully obvious as the most marginalized communities are forced to bear the worst impacts. Never before has it been more clear just how interconnected our health and the health of the planet truly is.


Experts have been warning of a coming pandemic for decades and yet, we weren't ready when the reality hit.

Now, as cities and countries work towards recovery, it's clear we've come to a crossroads. If we want true recovery and resilience in case of a future disaster, we're going to need both social and environmental justice.

That is why in April 2020, C40 mayors launched the Global Mayors COVID-19 Recovery Task Force.

The goal is simple: rebuild cities and economies in a way that improves public health, reduces inequality, and addresses the climate crisis — keeping global heating below 1.5°C.

The mayors laid out their collective vision for a better future by detailing what actions they're doing or plan to do:

Step one is creating green new jobs for an inclusive economy.

Los Angeles, for example, is investing in training for new green jobs to transition to an inclusive economy, while Seoul plans to create around 20,000 green jobs by retrofitting buildings by 2022.

This also involves taking steps towards upskilling or reskilling the workforce.

Medellín, Colombia is training 25,000 people in science, technology and innovation. They're also devoting special focus to empowering women.

"We bet on science, technology, and innovation to deal with the coronavirus," says Mayor Daniel Quintero. "But [we] also recognize that education is the most powerful tool for transforming, not only this society, but any society."

"We can't build a society that leaves half of its people behind."

Step two is working towards resilience and equity by providing fundamental public services for everyone.

This involves investing in public services, such as clean water, food, sanitation, and affordable, safe housing.

It also means investing in public transit, cycling, electric vehicles, and low emission zones.

London is rolling out one of the biggest car-free initiatives of any city in the world. Ongoing efforts to improve air quality have already reduced air pollution in the city by 35%. Meanwhile, Quezon City has launched an urban agriculture program by changing its zoning ordinances. These urban farms will improve the city's resilience to climate breakdown. In fact, during the pandemic, the city government and their partners have already provided 3.2 million food aid packages to vulnerable populations in just two months.

Finally, step three is taking action for health and well-being by giving public space to people and nature, reclaiming streets, guaranteeing clean air, and creating livable communities.

Freetown committed to growing and planting one million trees across the city in one year as part of this and Melbourne is planting 150,000 trees and other plants to create habitats, support biodiversity, and create jobs for people unemployed due to COVID-19. Both Milan and Paris committed to adopting plans to transform into "15-minute cities," where all residents will be able to meet most of their needs within a short walk or bicycle from their homes.

But the C40 mayors aren't stopping there. They're also calling on national and regional governments, central banks, and international institutions to join them.

Specifically, they're calling on them to deliver a green and just recovery by:

  1. Ensuring that the only stimulus is a green stimulus
  2. Committing to an equitable and inclusive recovery
  3. Protecting and championing mass transit
  4. Prioritizing and investing in clean energy
  5. Investing in resilient cities as the engines of recovery
  6. Ending all public fossil fuel investments and subsidies.

Want to ensure your city gets involved? Sign this petition and tell G20 countries to spend public money on a safe and just recovery for everyone in your city.

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When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Vanna White appeared on "The Price Is Right" in 1980.

Vanna White has been a household name in the United States for decades, which is kind of hilarious when you consider how she gained her fame and fortune. Since 1982, the former model and actress has made millions walking back and forth turning letters (and later simply touching them—yay technology) on the game show "Wheel of Fortune."

That's it. Walking back and forth in a pretty evening gown, flipping letters and clapping for contestants. More on that job in a minute…

As a member of Gen X, television game shows like "Wheel of Fortune" and "The Price is Right" send me straight back to my childhood. Watching this clip from 1980 of Vanna White competing on "The Price is Right" two years before she started turning letters on "Wheel of Fortune" is like stepping into a time machine. Bob Barker's voice, the theme music, the sound effects—I swear I'm home from school sick, lying on the ugly flowered couch with my mom checking my forehead and bringing me Tang.

This video has it all: the early '80s hairstyles, a fresh-faced Vanna White and Bob Barker's casual sexism that would never in a million years fly today.

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