As a young woman, I found solace and sanctuary walking the towering forests of the Adirondack Mountains as I struggled to come to terms with the Vietnam War and the social movements of that era. I didn’t realize it at the time, but those days held early stirrings of what would become my life’s professional calling—advocating on behalf of our environment.
My generation’s identity is bound up in views forged in our youth—convictions about justice, peace and preserving the planet we share. These aren’t just words or ideas; they are appeals to conscience, and each is a call to act.
We’ve been called to act as a nation against global climate change, the single most important environmental challenge of our time. We’ve been called, also, to embrace the opportunity this challenge presents, to create a better world for ourselves and a better future for our children.
There are 15.7 million Americans out of work. We can create nearly 2 million new jobs, says an October 2009 study by the University of California, Berkeley, by investing in conservation and renewable energy.
Every time I put 10 gallons of gasoline in my car, six gallons come from overseas, places like Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and Russia. Presidents as different as Jimmy Carter, George W. Bush and Barack Obama have called on us to reduce our reliance on foreign oil. We can do that by developing a clean and sustainable energy future.
The carbon emissions we pump into the air are contributing to climate change that is melting glaciers and sea ice, raising sea levels, widening deserts, increasing hunger and thirst, and exacerbating wildfires, drought, flooding and storms. We can cut those emissions and create a healthier planet for the next generation.
What can we do, each of us, to help promote these goals? We can act in three ways—as consumers, as citizens and as advocates:
First, make wise consumer choices that will save money and preserve clean water, fresh air and fertile lands. (Check the “Green Living” section of our website, www.nrdc.org, for tips on how to avoid toxic chemicals in your environment, reduce unwanted mail, and more.) Second, as citizens, make our voices heard. Write or call your senators. Urge them to pass clean energy and climate legislation.
Finally, become an advocate for the kind of future that’s important to you, your children and your grandchildren. Get the facts on climate change and the tremendous opportunity we have to develop the clean energy options that will help turn it back.
Many years have passed since I first gazed in awe at the Adirondack forests. I still remember that time we embraced common dreams: to honor our diversity as people and to use our resources, technology and might as a force for good in the world. We can do it again. We can resolve to do it now.
Frances Beinecke is president of the Natural Resources Defense Council. Her new book is Clean Energy Common Sense: An American Call to Action on Global Climate Change.