(Updated May 12, 2020) | More than 200 prominent public figures⁠—including Hollywood celebrities Penélope Cruz, ⁠Adam Driver, Robert De Niro, and Cate Blanchett—have signed an op-ed calling for a “radical transformation” of society amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The editorial, entitled No to a Return to Normal, was published in the French paper Le Monde last week. Oscar-winner Juliette Binoche and astrophysicist Aurélien Barrau penned the letter.

A lengthy list of notable artists, musicians, directors, scientists, athletes, and actors lent their signatures to the op-ed. High-profile celebrities Barbra Streisand, Joaquin Phoenix, Wim Wenders, and Madonna signed the piece. Other signees include the former president of the National Museum of Natural History, Gilles Bœuf; Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard; pianist Khatia Buniatishvili; and French philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy.

The letter reads: “The COVID-19 pandemic is a tragedy. This crisis is, however, inviting us to examine what is essential. And what we see is simple: “adjustments” are not enough. The problem is systemic.”

It goes on to warn of how the “ongoing ecological catastrophe” will “have immeasurable consequences.” The letter explains one of these consequences would be “the massive extinction of life on Earth.

More Than 200 Celebrities Call for Urgent Environmental Action Post-COVID
In 2018, transportation was the leading cause of greenhouse gas emissions.

Human-Caused ‘Ecological Catastrophe’

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports 2019 was the second-hottest year (following 2016) ever recorded in the past 140 years. Scientists say human activities like burning fossil fuels and clearing land for agriculture increase greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), which trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere and increase global warming.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, transportation is the leading cause of GHG emissions. In 2018, this sector accounted for 28 percent of overall emissions. Electricity production came in second at 27 percent, the industry sector in third with 22 percent, and the remaining emissions were caused by the agriculture and commercial/residential sectors.

The ongoing pandemic has forced millions of people to stay indoors due to mandated lockdowns to help limit the spread of the coronavirus. The reduction in cars on the road and people traveling has been beneficial for the planet.

According to the International Energy Agency, COVID-19 will result in a 2.6 billion-ton drop in carbon dioxide emissions. This is the highest reduction in energy-related emissions ever recorded. Some of the world’s largest cities have also seen a decrease in air pollution, according to a new report by Swiss tech company IQAir.

More Than 200 Celebrities: ‘The World Is at a Breaking Point’
Penélope Cruz lent her signature to the letter. | Penélope Cruz

‘The World Is at a Breaking Point’

The group of signees urges world leaders and citizens “to leave behind the unsustainable logic that still prevails,” and says a complete overhaul of the world’s “goals, values, and economies” is needed in order to prevent mass extinction.

The pursuit of consumerism and an obsession with productivity have led us to deny the value of life itself: that of plants, that of animals, and that of a great number of human beings. Pollution, climate change, and the destruction of our remaining natural zones has brought the world to a breaking point. The radical transformation we need–at all levels–demands boldness and courage,” the op-ed states.

The signees conclude that for these reasonsas well as for ever-increasing social inequalities prevalent around the worldgoing “back to normal” after the coronavirus pandemic ends is not an option.

To read the op-ed in its entirety and see the complete list of signees, click here.