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.