A June 22 New York Times op-ed by the leaders of two environmental organizations signals a recent shift in attitude: we can plainly not count on global leaders to make binding commitments to reduce carbon emissions. As their title reads, “We Have Met the Solution and It Is Us.” Frances Beinecke, head of the Natural Resources Defense Council, and Trip Van Noppen is president of Earthjustice. (I love their slogan: “Because the Earth needs a good lawyer.”) In brief, they argue that action must come from the grass roots, and the good news is, it already has started. They point to announcements and proclamations related to the summit, which 50,000 people attended and blogged, tweeted, and reported about to thousands more, about what countries are doing now without a UN document: “World development banks agreed to invest in a cleaner transportation network. . . . Developing countries agreed to phase out incandescent light bulbs. Australia, Mexico and other coastal countries committed to protecting their irreplaceable seas.”
The writers insist that despite a meaningful agreement and watered-down proclamations issuing from Rio, the Earth Summit was not a failure but rather “a catalyst. It is the starting point for change, not the finish line.” They call for actions on the collective level, of course–to “force our government leaders and our corporations to do what is right for our planet and its resources,” to implement commitments they have made at Rio and elsewhere, and then to” hold them accountable when they don’t”–but also for each one of us to engage.
As they say, “Individually, we must be efficient with the energy and the natural resources we consume and be ever cognizant of what the decisions we make today will mean for our children’s planet tomorrow.” I will follow with a series of posts outlining the many steps each of us can take to make a difference, to be part of the global grass-roots movement for change that will solve this problem. I’ll feature books and websites, and more reports of changes that are making a difference, such as my earlier post on the growth of wind and solar as alternative energy sources.