Action, please, not just words – EarthDay 2008

Three weeks from today, hundreds of thousands of American citizens will demonstrate in parks across the country calling for official action on global warming.

They’re right that the United States has failed to implement strong policies that would help reduce the nation’s harmful emissions that contribute to climate change.

But every protester also has an obligation to make a personal contribution to the cause. How many are doing that?

Organizers have chosen Sunday, April 20 to honor Earth Day on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. and many other cities. Their “Call for Climate” goal is to produce a million telephone calls to the Capitol on official Earth Day two days later. Earth Day Network and Green Apple Festival want Congress to place a national moratorium on new coal-burning plants, support more renewable energy, and emphasize carbon-neutral buildings and accommodation for middle class and low-income families in the new green economy.

It’s important to highlight climate change nationwide through Earth Day’s traditional festival atmosphere.

But again, where’s the individual component? Hard-working individuals with a can-do attitude built this great nation. Calling on government to solve problems is not enough. Every individual concerned about the damage climate change will inflict on the planet — and on humankind — has an individual obligation to alter some facet of his or her daily life to reduce that impact.

How many people are willing to turn down the heat in winter and raise their air conditioning temp in summer? To combine errands, reducing car trips? To send the children to school on the bus rather than driving them? To walk or take public transportation whenever possible? To drive a smaller, more fuel-efficient car, and to drive less? To hang their laundry on a line rather than throw it in a machine? Turn down their water heater temperature? Take shorter showers? Barbeque less often?

Ordinary citizens can play their own important part in this global challenge. The cumulative effect would be substantial, helping to head off hotter, drier summers, extreme cycles of drought and flooding, badly eroded coastlines, profound changes to forest and field ecosystems and other dire effects of global warming that the world already is witnessing. And the combined demands of committed citizens would have far greater influence on corporate and government behavior, too.

Anyone can blame President George W. Bush and Congress for their failure to acknowledge what the vast majority of scientists have confirmed: that global warming is likely the most important challenge of the 21st century.

But recall the old saw, “Actions speak louder than words.” Talk without action is just so much more hot air, and hot air is the last thing the atmosphere needs.

While we’re calling for action from the federal government, we owe it to ourselves and to our fellow residents of Planet Earth to reduce our own, personal carbon footprint, one person, one family at a time.

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