Are you ready to tell your children they were born a generation too late? That there is nothing you can do to fight the destruction of the earth’s climate?
Me neither. And perhaps you’d like to know that there is a whole lot we all can do to confront the most serious challenge of our era.
And there is very good news about this. President Obama, in his second inaugural address, stated the most categorical declaration of intentions against climate disruption in the history of the US presidency.
“We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that failure to do so would betray our children and future generations,” Mr. Obama said, devoting more time to this subject than to any other in his speech. “Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms.”
It’s in President Obama’s power to do more to fight climate disruption than any other human being on earth. For starters, he can, and must, keep fossil fuel corporations accountable for their carbon, soot, smog and mercury pollution, which poisons everyone’s air and water, especially those of Latino communities.
This climatic threat is also a unique opportunity for our country’s prosperity. The President must double down on clean energy by opening innovative financial and investment avenues for energy efficiency and renewable energy, thus creating millions of jobs and revitalizing the national economy.
The climate violence we are already experiencing underlines the urgency to protect our communities even more. The President must marshal his federal government to ensure equal, appropriate and just emergency and disaster responses, bearing in mind minority communities are the most vulnerable to climate disruption.
President Obama also has the unique opportunity to protect the nation’s lands and wildlife from oil, coal and gas exploitation. The natural legacy is not ours. We just borrowed it from the next generation.
But his most pressing decision is to reject the permit to build a veritable weather bomb, the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, which would transport the dirtiest crude on the planet from Alberta, Canada, to the Gulf of Mexico.
Climate experts call it a weather bomb because the burning of this crude of extremely high carbon content would cause irreparable damage to the planet’s atmospheric balance.
The pipeline poses such a grave threat to the future of humanity, the Sierra Club and several other environmental groups have organized a rally —the largest in the history of America’s environmental movement— on Feb. 17 at the National Mall in front of the White House to put pressure on the Obama administration. And then another one will also take place in Washington, DC, on April 22, Earth Day, to culminate this crucial campaign.
Humankind finds itself at a historic crossroads that will define the future of our children and grandchildren, whether they will have a benign climate in which to prosper or a hostile one that will make life on our planet a constant challenge.
But I do have faith that our descendants will read in their history books that in the early months of 2013 our society refused to tell their sons and daughters that they were born a generation too late.
Javier Sierra is a Sierra Club columnist. Follow him on Twitter @javier_SC