Earth Day Action Alert For The Sustainability Community

The work of the sustainability community is a bright spot when it comes to U.S. leadership in energy and environmental matters. We are the people who make lifestyle choices to reduce air, water and waste pollution. We support organizations that provide sustainable products and services, and especially respect businesses that voluntarily reduce greenhouse gas emissions - even while the U.S. Congress struggles to define a policy on carbon emissions reduction.

Our community understands that per capita energy consumption in the U.S. profoundly exceeds most other countries, including India and China where population density in each country exceeds 1 billion people. And, we know that our present energy consumption rates are not sustainable because our main fuel sources are coal and oil which are natural resources that are exhaustible.

I just returned from India, where one can smell residual tar in the air in cities like Delhi due to under-controlled coal power plants. I experienced lung congestion and coughing from ground level ozone due to car exhaust. These observations were a startling reminder of much the U.S. has accomplished over the past 40 years in terms of environmental protection. USEPA was created in 1970 in response to our awakening to the consequences of unregulated air, water and waste streams from large industrial sources. I admit the U.S. feels very regulated compared to life in India. But I’ll take the results of common-sense regulation - cleaner air, water and land.

The sustainability community is very aware that the most challenging air pollution issue of our time is carbon pollution related to our consumption of fossil fuel. USEPA has determined that carbon pollution represents an endangerment to public health and welfare, but some oil, gas and electric utility companies have spent more than $500 million in the past year lobbying against USEPA’s authority to regulate carbon and other air pollutants.

Dire predictions have been made by these lobbyists. The Clean Air Act faced similar attacks in 1990 (which is the last time the CAA was significantly amended), but sound minds prevailed resulting in significant reductions in criteria pollutants and a 64% growth in GDP between 1990 and 2008. Some of the economic growth is attributable to green job sector growth. Further, the U.S. is projected to accrue an economic benefit of $2 trillion by 2020 as a result of public health, environmental and economic benefits achieved by cleaning up air pollution sources. Our 40 years of experience supports the USEPA’s determination that CAA benefits outweigh costs by 40 to 1.

So I’ll get to my point – the U.S. Congress is struggling to develop coherent and wise energy and environmental policies to deal with carbon and other related air pollution issues related to large industrial sources, power plants and cars. It is time for the sustainability community to voice our concern and share the lessons of our collective experience. If the sustainability community doesn’t voice it’s opinion to our lawmakers, who will?

Clean air is not a partisan political issue. Environmental laws and regulations have been passed under administrations from both parties. This is a people issue and people are at the center of the sustainability ethic – both those alive today and future generations.

Now is the time for the sustainability community to write, call, email and visit your U.S. lawmaker and encourage him or her to support common-sense regulations to control carbon emissions in large industrial sources, power plants and cars.

Photo credit: Señor Codo