President Obama’s Speech and Climate Action Plan

On June 25, 2013, a sweltering day in Washington D.C., President Obama unveiled his Climate Action Plan during at speech at Georgetown University. Years from now, will we look back at this event as a key milestone in the fight against climate change? I hope so.

The President’s Climate Action Plan

During his speech, President Obama stated science tells us “…the planet is warming and human activity is contributing to it”. He said we need to act now and shared his plan to fight climate change as well as live with the consequences. He gave an overview of the three main focus areas of his Climate Action Plan which are:

  1. Cut Carbon Pollution in America
  2. Prepare the United States for the Impacts of Climate Change
  3. Lead International Efforts to Address Global Climate Change

At the end of his remarks, the President summed up the challenge that lies ahead,

“I understand the politics will be tough. The challenge we must accept will not reward us with a clear moment of victory. There’s no gathering army to defeat. There’s no peace treaty to sign. When President Kennedy said we’d go to the moon within the decade, we knew we’d build a spaceship and we’d meet the goal. Our progress here will be measured differently — in crises averted, in a planet preserved. But can we imagine a more worthy goal? For while we may not live to see the full realization of our ambition, we will have the satisfaction of knowing that the world we leave to our children will be better off for what we did.”

The Bottom Line

While watching the speech live on the Internet, I felt proud to be an American and to hear the President of the United States go on the record stating climate change is a problem and that we must to do something about it.

Disappointingly, the bar seems to be set low, with drawn out time frames. 2020 and 2030 are a long time from now. Americans often seem to be at our best—our most innovative, collaborative, and competitive selves emerge—when we are told something is impossible or when our abilities are called into question. I believe we can do much, much more and there is no reason we can’t raise the bar ourselves.

Judge for Yourself

If you didn’t have an opportunity to see President Obama’s June 25, 2013, Climate Change speech live, take this opportunity to watch it via video or read the transcript.

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American Earth – Book Review

American Earth Book CoverAmerican Earth: Environmental Writing Since Thoreau, edited by Bill McKibben, with a foreword by Al Gore, is a hefty tome published in 2008.

The book of over a 1,000 pages covers a period of more than 150 years and includes writing by famous and not so famous people on a wide variety of environmental related topics.

Book Review

Those who embark upon reading American Earth will find a collection of essays, articles, and excerpts written by environmentalists, naturalists, politicians, scientists, activists, and “regular” people.

McKibben introduces each piece of writing with the reason for its inclusion in the book and a brief bio of the author.

The book opens with an excerpt from Henry David Thoreau’s Walden and wraps up with an essay by Rebecca Soinit, entitled The Thoreau Problem. In between, readers will find a wealth of writing by diverse authors, including:

  • My First Summer in the Sierra, by naturalist John Muir
  • About Trees, by Arbor Day founder, J. Sterling Morton
  • A Sand County Almanac, by ecologist Aldo Leopold
  • Polemic: Industrial Tourism and the National Parks, by Edward Abbey, one-time National Park ranger, and lifelong environmental activist
  • The Beginning, by Earth Day founder, Denis Hayes
  • The Third Planet: Operating Instructions, by David Brower, first executive director of the Sierra Club
  • Love Canal: My Story, by environmentalist Lois Marie Gibbs
  • The Dubious Rewards of Consumption, by Sightline Institute founder and executive director, Alan Durning
  • Planet of Weeds, by science and nature writer, David Quammen
  • The Legacy of Luna, by environmentalist and a literal tree hugger, Julia Butterfly Hill

Rounding out the book is a chronology of the environmental movement, photos, cartoons, and an occasional chart.

The Bottom Line

Bill McKibben is a well-known and respected environmentalist, writer, activist, and the co-founder of 350.org. He is a scholar in residence at Middlebury College in Vermont.

Although the size of the book may seem daunting, the essays are short, anywhere from 1 to 25 pages or so. This makes it easy to pick up the book, read a few items, set it aside and come back to it later.

Readers of American Earth will come away with a good background in the environmental movement as well as food for thought and action.

I enjoyed reading essays and excerpts by people I knew of but had not read as well as those who were new to me. Some of the pieces I had read before, I liked some better than others, and a few I skipped over.

I recommend American Earth to anyone interested in the environment and the future of planet earth.

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