Calling for Earth’s Day in Congress

Earth Day 2010 News Conference

Almost 40 years after the inaugural Earth Day, Americans of all stripes are pushing Congress to put the planet first.

That was the message from a panel of elected leaders and conservationists meeting at the National Press Club in Washington yesterday to call on the Senate to pass comprehensive climate and energy legislation before April 22. Congressman Jay Inslee (D-WA), Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker, Earth Day Network President Kathleen Rogers, League of Conservation Voters (LCV) President Gene Karpinski, and Earth Day Co-Founder Dennis Hayes joined National Wildlife Federation President & CEO Larry Schweiger to advocate for swift action to combat global warming, a phenomenon Rogers called "the defining environmental crisis of our time."

Some see this as a precarious moment for the conservation community, but the tone here was hopeful and relentlessly pragmatic — singularly focused on getting something done in the near future. Most of the talk centered on the great opportunities afforded us by the current administration, likening current potential for innovation to that surrounding the first Earth Day, which paved the way for decades of environmental leaps.

So, what leaps will we attempt this time around? For starters, a comprehensive climate plan would be "a win for our economy, a win for our security, [and] a win for our planet," according to Gene Karpinski. That means new clean energy jobs, reduced dependence on dirty foreign fuels, and a brighter ecological future for our grandchildren.

That's not to say we haven't done a lot already. Rep. Inslee cited the clean energy progress made in China (and his native Washington) in the name of revitalizing its economy, and suggested politicians stop "waiting for election results" and start building on strong public support for climate action to affect similar changes throughout America (Larry Schweiger's reaction: "We need to clone that guy.")

Larry Schweiger talked about the advances — social, economic, and environmental — in his native Pennsylvania since the first Earth Day and discussed the need for strong leadership at a time when some in Washington are beholden to special interests: "Leaders can lead and can, in fact, solve problems. This is our time."

With a pitch like that, why wait until April? Please contact your Senators now and ask them to spurn special interests, build on 40 years of environmental progress, and lead the way to a pollution-cutting, economy-saving bill this spring.

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Published: January 21, 2010