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J.R. Tolbert: Keeping the faith on Earth Day


Column by J.R. Tolbert
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Forty years ago, nearly 20 million Americans participated in what was the beginning of the modern environmental movement. Inspired by Sen. Gaylord Nelson after witnessing an oil spill off California’s coast, Earth Day was started to spotlight issues related to environmental degradation and the need to protect our planet. Though much progress has been made in the four decades following its creation, this year we have little room to celebrate.

Despite widespread and popular support for policies protecting the air we breathe and the water we drink, Big Oil and corporate polluters continue to hold the reigns of power in Washington. This year, we must redouble our efforts and convince lawmakers that our world cannot suffer another forty years of environmental neglect, abuse and apathy. It’s time for an Earth Day Revolution.

As Americans, we take pride in our vast landscapes, natural parks, coastlines and waterways that distinguish our nation from others around the globe. While Europe has cathedrals and castles centuries old, and Asia is dotted with historic monuments that have withstood the test of time, we have pristine gems unlike any place on earth. Our natural surroundings are what left viewers in awe on their trek out West, and helped enable sports, fishing and hunting industries that thrive to this day.

Yet despite all we’ve been given, we have so much to lose if lawmakers don’t take immediate action to address the real and pressing danger posed by global climate change. Aside from the environment itself, human health is in peril by the dangers of fossil fuel pollution. Carbon emissions have been deemed a threat to public health, and inaction will only jeopardize the air our children breathe and the water they drink.

Our leaders in Washington cannot break the grip of special interests. They are stuck in bickering and partisan wrangling. Big oil, king coal, and big businesses are holding back our progress to maintain the status quo that lines their pockets at the expense of public health. And nobody seems to be accountable.

Today, an overwhelming majority of Americans are ready to move in a new direction. We have the solutions and resources – we just need the political courage from members of Congress. We can revitalize our economy and create jobs by moving to a clean energy economy, enhancing our national security by lessening our dependence on foreign oil and cleaning our environment from harmful pollution.

As we count down the weeks till Earth Day, we call on leaders in Congress to take a stand for once on principal. Stop cashing in on the political contributions, and start working on the agenda the American people sent you to Washington to accomplish. We have a unique opportunity to write a new chapter in America’s history, and it starts by passing meaningful and comprehensive climate and energy legislation. For the sake of our future and our children’s future, let’s stand up together as Clean Energy Patriots and enact policies that protect our environment, our health, and our way of life.

J.R. Tolbert is the advocate for Environment Virginia, a statewide citizen-funded organization working for clean air, clean water and open spaces.



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