We talk a lot about the harmful impacts that our reliance on dirty energy sources have on wildlife. Let us not lose sight of the flipside of that critical conversation: responsible clean energy solutions are essential to protecting the future of wildlife and their habitats. We need to focus a concerted effort on changing the energy landscape for the better and celebrating progress when it occurs. We need to demand cooperation in Congress and to insist on results in the form of swift and comprehensive policies that promote clean energy development and reward investors willing to drive us toward a future that is well within reach.
In President Obama’s speech announcing his Climate Action Plan last month, he declared a commitment to cutting carbon pollution and shifting to a clean energy economy. A commitment from the president is essential, and we need to hold our leaders accountable to the goals they set. There may be no better way of showing our support for national goals than by taking individual actions that help move us toward them. Doing so will raise the volume on our message to lawmakers, that we want to power our society without polluting the air and the water, and without endangering wildlife—and we do not want to wait any longer.
When Washington Fails, the Public Leads
Polls repeatedly confirm that the division on responding to climate change in Congress does not reflect the positions of the general population:
- A January 2013 study by Yale and George Mason Universities found that 77% of registered voters “support using more renewable energy in the U.S. than we are using today.”
- Also in January 2013, a Duke University study found that 64% of registered voters “support requiring utilities to generate ‘a large amount’ of their power from low-carbon sources”
- The Pew Research Center found, in February 2013, that 62% of American adults “favor setting stricter emission limits on power plants.”
Clearly America wants clean energy, and in many ways, we are getting closer. The challenge we face is to seriously ramp up our momentum, while ensuring that our progress is responsible and sustainable. We do not have time to waste on inaction—but we also do not have time to fix avoidable mistakes down the road—so let’s get this as right as we can the first time around. Let’s build a strong foundation and move forward from there.
“I’m convinced this is a fight that America must lead. But it will require all of us to do our part. We’ll need scientists to design new fuels, and we’ll need farmers to grow new fuels. We’ll need engineers to devise new technologies, and we’ll need businesses to make and sell those technologies. We’ll need workers to operate assembly lines that hum with high-tech, zero-carbon components, but we’ll also need builders to hammer into place the foundations for a new clean energy era.”
— President Barack Obama
Three Forward Steps to Progress
There is plenty that individuals and businesses can do to establish a wildlife-friendly, clean energy landscape.First, we need to capitalize on strategic partnerships sprouting up all over the country, which help to bridge the gap between concern and action. The National Wildlife Federation for example, partners with Sungevity.org to offer our members the opportunity to sign up for Sungevity’s solar lease program at a discounted rate, and sponsor a contribution to NWF’s work in the process. Members that do not live in deregulated states can also take advantage by sharing this information with their friends and family in states who may be able to participate.
Secondly, when our elected leaders introduce strong energy legislation, we need to express our support. The Incentivizing Offshore Wind Power Act has been introduced in both the House and the Senate, and has been gradually collecting cosponsors. We need to convince those who have not signed on yet, that we want to reward the first-movers in the offshore wind industry, so that we can catch up with the several other nations already reaping its benefits.
Third, we need to demand strong and thoughtful leadership. We cannot allow partisan bickering to obstruct progress for months at a time. Notably, and of timely relevancy, the functioning of the Environmental Protection Agency must always take priority over a congressional stalemate—and when it doesn’t, we need to speak up.
Most importantly, we need to keep this conversation going. We need to bring policy makers and advocates and scientists to the same table, because when we do, our solutions are holistic and hold the potential to be truly lasting. And for the sake of wildlife, the environment, and for future generations, we need to do this right now.