Posts Tagged ‘federal policy’

It’s time to mount a personal climate response

July 13, 2010

Close-to-home produce, Santa Fe Farmers Market - Photo: William Poole

It has been a tough few months for Americans who love the land. Scenes of the oil spill in the Gulf have brought the consequences of our fossil fuel economy deep into our hearts. Congressional gridlock on comprehensive climate change legislation-despite evidence of mounting climate shifts-has frustrated our hopes for a new energy course that would protect our land and water and slow the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. 

It is easy to be discouraged in the face of environmental catastrophe and political stalemate.  But there are small steps each of us can take while we wait for government’s big strides.  Instead of meditating on this national moment of dismay, every American should refocus on the energy and climate solutions that we all have at hand, right now, and work to create the change that we seek.  

Ultimately, slowing climate change will require government-led solutions that shift our energy infrastructure to a new model.  But our energy use and related environmental impacts are also driven by individual daily choices.  For example, you can ride your bike to work instead of driving.  Or I can eat lettuce grown in my own backyard rather than on the other side of the country.  It is these kinds of small actions, repeated billions of times over, that will be needed to solve our energy and climate crisis.  

These personal actions also have political consequences.  As someone who works in Washington D.C. but travels the country regularly, I see how the political mood in the nation’s capital moves in a shadowy dance with what is happening in our cities, towns, and rural landscapes.  The conventional wisdom inside the Beltway right now is that America has given up on a comprehensive energy and climate change response as too confusing, uncertain, and expensive.  Each one of us can help change this political mood by showing through our actions that we understand the problem and are ready to do what it takes.  

So if you feel despair right now at our inability to tackle energy and climate, this is the time to become the change you seek through personal action.  Talk about it to your friends and neighbors and ask them to join you—start the toppling dominoes of personal action. 

While you’re putting up a clothesline or screwing in high-efficiency light bulbs, TPL will continue to advocate for a comprehensive energy and climate change response from Washington.  And we will also continue doing our part to make a difference right now by developing land conservation projects that expand biking and walking opportunities in America’s cities and towns, sequester millions of tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in newly restored native forests, and help protect our drinking water supplies and coastal areas from scientifically identified climate threats.  

None of us need to wait for government action before getting to work on our own personal energy and climate solutions.  The tipping point for national and even international action is closer than you think, and now is the time to push.  See you on the bike path! 

Editor’s Note: Jad Daley is the director of TPL’s Climate Conservation Program. 

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LandMarks: Stewart Udall

March 24, 2010

It has been interesting to read obituaries of Stewart Udall, who died last week at age 90. Udall was secretary of the interior in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, in the founding decades of the modern conservation and environmental movements. The litany of Udall’s accomplishments is impressive.

From the Washington Post, which also offers a wonderful gallery of images from Udall’s public life:

He brought conservation and environmental concerns into the national consciousness and was the guiding force behind landmark legislation that preserved millions of acres of land, expanded the national park system and protected water and land from pollution. From the Cape Cod seashore in Massachusetts to the untamed wilds of Alaska, Mr. Udall left a monumental legacy as a guardian of America’s natural beauty.

“Stewart Udall, more than any other single person, was responsible for reviving the national commitment to conservation and environmental preservation,” former Arizona governor Bruce Babbitt, who was President Bill Clinton’s interior secretary, said in 2006.

Despite having a testy relationship with President Lyndon B. Johnson, Mr. Udall remained in the Cabinet after Kennedy’s assassination in 1963 and made concern for the environment a key part of Johnson’s Great Society. He helped secure passage of the Wilderness Act of 1964 (which now protects about 400 million acres of land in 44 states), as well as the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act (1965), the Water Quality Act (1965), the Solid Waste Disposal Act (1965), the Endangered Species Preservation Act (1966), the National Historic Preservation Act (1966) and the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act (1968).

But as impressive as this record is, what comes through to me in the obituaries is the way that politics has changed since Udall’s time. In that era it was widely believed that conserving land and cleaning up the environment were important steps in the nation’s progress, and politicians of most stripes weren’t afraid to say so. The movement that Udall helped to kick start as a liberal Democrat plowed ahead full steam during the Republican Nixon administration.

According to The New York Times, in a 2003 public television interview, Udall said that there was in Washington a “big tent on the environment.”

 “Republicans and Democrats, we all worked together,” Mr. Udall told Bill Moyers.

In fact, TPL’s own experience is that there are still a lot of dedicated and effective conservationists on both sides of the aisle in Washington–although that quiet consesus is often drowned out by polarizing voices.

In the conservation movement, we really do stand of the shoulders of giants. As we lose them, one by one, we are reminded again of how much they accomplished in relatively little time. To know what was possible in the past offers a kind of hope for the future.

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