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Inside NRDC
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The Tide Is Changing

The time has come. As many of you know, this is my final column as NRDC president. I will be stepping down in January 2006 and passing the torch -- gladly, enthusiastically -- to our new president, Frances Beinecke.

The very best institutions change leadership when they are at full strength, not past it. I have worked closely with Frances over three decades, and my experience tells me she has both the resilience and the vision to guide NRDC through a world of new and urgent challenges.

The question is not whether we will prevail, but what strategies will bring us success.

Foremost among these is global warming. The question is not whether we will prevail, but what strategies, ultimately, will bring us success. The science is no longer in doubt: The academies of science of every Group of 8 nation, along with China, India, and Brazil, have asserted that the climate is changing, the earth is warming, and our reliance on carbon-based fuels is the leading cause.

Here in the United States, the tide is finally changing. This summer, the Senate passed a truly groundbreaking resolution calling for mandatory limits on global-warming pollution. Energy executives, including the heads of American Electric Power, Xcel Energy, Cinergy, and Duke Energy, now acknowledge that mandatory limits on carbon are inevitable. General Electric, which has been anticipating such limits for years, has acquired a wind-power company and invested in solar and clean coal technologies. Industry experts at McKinsey and JPMorgan Chase are already in the game, advising clients that companies must prepare to compete under tighter emissions regulations.

NRDC has been a player in nearly every one of these encouraging developments, often behind the scenes, lending scientific and policy expertise to government, industry, and business. We've made an enormous financial and staff commitment to address what is certainly the most pressing environmental problem the world faces today.

Now is the time to set equally ambitious goals to address other planet-altering threats: Our oceans' rich, incredibly complex ecosystems face imminent collapse; the world's boreal forests -- great repositories of biodiversity and climate stability -- face wholesale destruction. Our own bodies are full of carcinogens, neurotoxins, and hormone-disrupting industrial chemicals.

We have high aspirations for NRDC too. You cannot run an organization like ours -- with a large staff of professionals who are the best in the business -- without having the funds to support them and their programs. A rigorous self-examination process is under way, and the result will be a long-term strategic vision and an action plan for both the institution and the planet. In my new role as founding director and senior adviser, I will take part in devising those strategies and goals, but will also ensure that a new, young generation of environmental leaders will be at the helm to guide NRDC for decades to come.

In the next issue of OnEarth -- a publication that I helped found and that remains a source of great pride -- this column will for the first time give voice to a new NRDC president. I know that Frances's messages will continue NRDC's 35-year history of rising to the challenge of protecting our earth.

John H. Adams

Also Inside NRDC

Photo: Peter Ross

OnEarth. Fall 2005
Copyright 2005 by the Natural Resources Defense Council