Rumors of a Gore candidacy continue to circulate, and my colleagues in the environmental activism community salivate at the prospect of having such a high-profile climate crusader in the White House. The stakes for our planet are high, and this Earth Day, people are getting antsy for bold action and large-scale social change. Despite his recent calls for lower gas emissions, Obama has received a lukewarm reception from environmentalists for his perceived pandering to the Illinois coal industry. In recent rallies and with his One Corps action group, John Edwards has answered youth activists’ call against coal and has called on Congress to cut carbon emissions by 80% by 2050. Obama is a wonderful candidate for a lot of reasons, but if he is really in it for the long haul, he needs to step it up and become a leader against climate change.
Worldchanging.com columnists Alex Steffen and Sarah Rich are calling for an end to Earth Day, saying that it propagates the illusion that small steps like recycling can singlehandedly solve our climate crisis, when in reality we must address large-scale systemic problems with the way our society operates. Instead, they are calling for a movement towards “one planet, three decades:” changing the way we live – within the next three decades – to the extent that every human on the planet could attain our standard of living without the planet buckling under the pressure. Small steps to change your personal carbon footprint are a good start, but not nearly enough. Putting aside the debate about Earth Day in particular, this call to action demonstrates the seriousness of the problem as well as the drastic steps our government needs to take to address it.
For many young voters, climate change is a major issue. Today, a Washington Post article states, “For many children and young adults, global warming is the atomic bomb of today. Fears of an environmental crisis are defining their generation in ways that the Depression, World War II, Vietnam and the Cold War’s lingering “War Games” etched souls in the 20th century.” Youth are organizing around this defining issue in the form of nonprofits, educational campaigns, peer exchange, blogs, legislative activism, and international policy advocacy. Next week, I’ll be joining a youth delegation to the UN Commission on Sustainable Development, where we’ll push for greater action on climate change and renewable energy. Global warming is also an issue for the What’s Your Plan? campaign. Youth in these networks are active, engaged, and ready to get behind a candidate who will be serious about the environment.
This Earth Day, environmentalists – both young and old – are looking beyond acting locally and getting serious about thinking globally. And we are no longer a fringe group – according to a new survey, most Americans think climate change “is real” and that “want the federal government to do more about it.” The condition is ripe for a climate leader to emerge from the pool of 08 contenders. Edwards is clearly jockeying for the position, and if Gore runs, he’ll be the obvious poster boy.
So, Obama: I hate to go the route of tough love, but if you’re serious about saving the environment, you’ll have to step it up and prove it to us. You can start by denouncing coal.