The Passing of an Environmental Giant

Last week I learned about the untimely death of Phil Clapp, one of our fiercest and most devoted environmental champions.

The battle to stop global warming is a bruising one, having an ally like Phil in the trenches has made it more bearable, more effective, and more humane. He had a sharp strategic mind, sound judgment, and a quick, impish wit that leavened many tedious meetings and long negotiation sessions.

From early on, it was clear the Phil was uncommonly passionate and dedicated. At the age of 15, he left his home in Los Angeles to go to New Hampshire to work on Sen. Eugene McCarthy's presidential campaign in 1968.

Many years and many environmental victories later, he founded the National Environmental Trust in 1994--just as the Gingrich Congress began its attempt to dismantle America's environmental safeguards. Phil was central in beating back those assaults and moving our nation forward. In the Clinton years, he helped engineer the Roadless Rule and several Clean Air milestones.

But the crisis of global warming is what really moved Phil in the past decade. He channeled his boundless energy into finding out how to best mobilize the American public on this issue and push Congress to do better.

While I am relieved that Phil lived long enough to see global warming and clean energy become a part of the national debate, I am saddened that he didn't get to see his labors fully bear fruit.  

It is comforting to know that his family--and all of us really--will enjoy the rewards of what Phil has helped create: a more energized public, a consensus in Washington that America must act to stop the climate crisis, and ultimately, a law that will shelter us from the worst injuries of global warming and launch us into a cleaner, more sustainable future.

When that comes to pass, I will thank Phil.