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June 03, 2010

From Anger to Action

A month ago, looking down from a small plane at the spreading oil on the Gulf of Mexico, I was stunned. I was shocked. I was angry.

Today, I'm heartbroken.

We set off for the Outer Islands from Venice, Louisiana, this morning in an 18-foot skiff -- the kind that would be used for sport-fishing. The oil has long since reached this nesting site for thousands of brown pelicans -- Louisiana's state bird. Yes, there were oil-drenched booms in place; we watched as the waves washed right over them.

One bird, covered in oil, struggled again and again to take off from the water. Other pelicans would approach and then move away. It's the kind of image you want to share, not because it's beautiful, but because you want so badly for people to understand.

After today, I'm convinced that anyone who could see the results of this catastrophe firsthand would march on Congress and beat on doors to demand answers, accountability, and action. I wish every American could see it.

One can. President Obama will make his third visit to the Gulf tomorrow (Friday, June 4). It's tough to find a boat that can take you out to see what's happening in places like Breton National Wildlife Refuge, but I would hope the President of the United States could wrangle one.

Maybe he'd see that pelican, coated in oil and struggling to take flight, as a metaphor for America's past failed attempts to make meaningful progress toward the clean energy future we all know we must someday achieve.

My question to him is, if not now, when? Why not make this his leadership moment and announce that America has made a firm commitment to ending its dependence on oil in 20 years.

Perhaps President Obama could paraphrase the man who once sat behind that same desk in the Oval Office: "We choose to do these things not because they're easy, but because they're right."

After President Kennedy declared that we would put a man on the moon, it took just eight years to transform his vision into reality. For this race, where the stakes are so much higher, we have two decades -- and a bigger head start.

What are we waiting for, Mr. President?

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Michael Brune

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