Environment: What’s Next?

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15279859192_0f63d2fe2b_zBy Kelly Martin

Associate Director, Beyond Dirty Fuels Campaign at Sierra Club

As a mother of young children, concern for the stability of the climate and quality of the air and water is a central motivation for my advocacy. I want to instill in my kids a spirit of wonder about the natural world, a love of the outdoors, and raise them to be engaged in our democracy. Already my third grader can tell you the basics of climate science:  Burning fossil fuels – like coal, gas, and oil—for electricity and cars is causing dangerous climate change. Our road trips are filled with cries of “Gross! Pollution!” when we pass a coal-fired power plant and celebratory cheers when we pass solar panels and electric cars.  And they, like me, know that elections matter.

As we face a new president, I fear that our air, water, and climate are at grave risk. President Obama is leaving office with a legacy of climate action. He has moved to clean up carbon pollution from existing coal-fired power plants with the EPA’s groundbreaking Clean Power Plan. He directed investments in clean energy that have dramatically increased the amount of solar and wind powering our country. He rejected the Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline, citing the need to keep fossil fuels in the ground. And a global climate deal struck in Paris and signed by 175 nations will pave the way for climate action that gives us a chance to avert the worst impacts of climate change, and gives our children a future that they deserve.  

Earlier this month, 195 countries were represented in Morocco at the UN summit to plan the next steps toward meeting the goals of the Paris agreement. They aren’t stopping, even if the U.S. leadership position is weakened by the new president. At the same time, thousands marched outside the summit to make sure world leaders hear the global movement supporting strong climate action and the need to keep fossil fuels in the ground.

Before he leaves office, I hope that the president will do everything in his power to finalize environmental protection before an onslaught of attacks that are sure to come in the next administration. I hope that he will take one last stand for environmental justice and respond to the call of the Standing Rock Sioux and hundreds of Native American tribes and cancel the Dakota Access oil pipeline. By directing his agency to deny a permit for this destructive project, he could help keep fossil fuels in the ground and chart a course away from centuries of environmental racism against indigenous people.

By the looks of it, we may have a climate denier as the head of EPA and fossil fuel executives overseeing the very industry that is causing global climate change. Yet still, I have some hope. Filled with clergy and faith leaders, students, teachers, parents, and advocates, there is a growing, powerful people’s climate movement recognizes that environmental issues are intertwined with women’s issues and the fights for racial justice. There is work to do on the local level to bring clean energy to our communities even as we play defense with our federal government.

Stay engaged, friends. Truly, the work has just begun.




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