After 35 years working as an environmental advocate, I have done my share of consensus building and coalition tending. It's not always easy finding common ground, even among those who are fighting for the same cause. But today the environmental community reached an unprecedented level of agreement. More than 30 leading conservation, climate, and environmental groups representing millions of members released a joint plan for President-Elect Obama's transition team.
The plan covers a wide range of issues that merit prompt presidential attention, but it underscores the immediate need to channel America's ingenuity into solving the entwined economic, climate, and environmental crises.
As members of our coalition worked tirelessly over the past few weeks to devise the plan, I noticed that many of us were grappling with the same two conflicting emotions.
The first was hope. Our meetings and conference calls had a level of excitement I have not detected in years. After two terms of failed leadership, we see the promise in a president who made solving global warming the subject of his second major policy announcement.
But that optimism is tempered by a terrible sense of urgency. The people who drafted this roadmap come from the frontlines. They are the climate scientists who witness the quickening loss of Arctic sea ice and the punishing Southwestern drought. They are the agency watchdogs who have seen what an unchecked energy industry has done to our Western wildlands. They are the men and women who know that key indicators--from toxins in our bodies to global warming pollution levels--are at the tipping point.
But it's not just the Earth that's in danger. Even as we drafted this report, the financial news kept getting worse. What could be more urgent than rebuilding our economy?
These days, as I bounce between the feelings of urgency and hope, I draw inspiration from the way President-elect Obama seems to be viewing this moment in time. In his victory speech, he reminded us that America is facing a long list of significant obstacles, but out of these challenges can arise opportunity. We can face these difficult times with bold measures and visionary leadership.
The plan drafted by our environmental coalition offers a starting point. It details how we can lift ourselves out of this economic crisis through investing in clean energy solutions that solve global warming. Done right, this approach will revitalize our economy by generating millions of good-paying jobs that use the skills workers already have to install clean energy and green infrastructure right here in the United States.
Remember, it is not just my NRDC colleagues and I who believe in this approach. Environmentalists of all stripes have united behind it, as well as a host of other solutions for healing our landscapes, waterways, wildlife, oceans, and the air we breathe.
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