« The Day We Move Forward on Climate | Main | No Time to Cool Off »

February 13, 2013

Doing the Right Thing

My previous visit to the White House was definitely more fun -- I took my dad to the annual Christmas party. Today, I returned on a chilly D.C. morning to get arrested alongside friends and fellow environmental do-gooders like Bill McKibben, Andre Carothers, Adam Werbach, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., and Sierra Club President Allison Chin. We enviros didn't have to brave the cold alone, though. There were almost 50 of us: activists and actors, authors and ranchers, reverends and farmers, union leaders and scientists -- and legendary civil rights leader Julian Bond. The one thing we all shared was a conviction: President Obama must act to protect our climate -- and that means saying "no" to the Keystone XL tar-sands pipeline.

I'm hopeful. If I weren't, I'd be in the wrong line of work. But the president has come a long way since 2011, when his State of the Union address didn't mention climate even once. Last night, the president stood before Congress to say this:

... if [you] won't act soon to protect future generations, I will. I will direct my Cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.

Strong words, and I believe the president when he says he will take action on climate, as well as push for clean-energy solutions and greater energy efficiency. What's at issue, though, is not whether President Obama is willing to do something, but whether he's ready to do the right things.

While preparing for today's protest, I read and thought a lot about the great leaders of the past who fought hard and courageously in the name of righteousness. Less than two months before he was felled by an assassin's bullet, Martin Luther King, Jr. gave this answer when asked why he persisted in taking an unpopular stand against the Vietnam War:

Ultimately, a genuine leader is not a searcher of consensus but a molder of consensus. On some positions cowardice asks the question, is it safe? Expediency asks the question, is it politic? Vanity asks the question, is it popular? But conscience asks the question, is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.

We know that enabling the exploitation of Canada's carbon-intensive tar-sands oil would be a huge setback for progress on climate disruption. It could undo all the real progress on  carbon-pollution that the president rightly took credit for during his speech last night.

A politician might ask whether stopping Keystone XL would be a politic or popular decision. A leader will only care whether it's the right one. My biggest hope? That this president is ready to lead.

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d83451b96069e2017d4109b3b5970c

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Doing the Right Thing:


User comments or postings reflect the opinions of the responsible contributor only, and do not reflect the viewpoint of the Sierra Club. The Sierra Club does not endorse or guarantee the accuracy of any posting. The Sierra Club accepts no obligation to review every posting, but reserves the right (but not the obligation) to delete postings that may be considered offensive, illegal or inappropriate.

Up to Top

Michael Brune

Join Michael Brune's email list:

   Please leave this field empty

Find us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Rss Feed



Sierra Club Main | Contact Us | Terms and Conditions of Use | Privacy Policy/Your California Privacy Rights | Website Help

Sierra Club® and "Explore, enjoy and protect the planet"® are registered trademarks of the Sierra Club. © 2013 Sierra Club.
The Sierra Club Seal is a registered copyright, service mark, and trademark of the Sierra Club.