Earth Day 2010

April 22, 2010 Earth Day 1Mr. President, today our Nation marks the 40th anniversary of Earth Day.  For four decades, Americans have joined together on April 22 to celebrate our environment and to commit ourselves to fostering a healthier world.  What Senator Gaylord Nelson began as a grassroots response to widespread environmental degradation in the 1970s has grown to become the foundation of the modern environmental movement and an annual recognition of Earth Day.  For 40 years, Americans have used this day to organize events and participate in activities to draw attention to environmental issues and to promote environmental awareness and reform.  Today, on the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, we can be proud of the many steps we have taken to clean up the environment.  With the hard work and dedication of many, we have made progress.  But there is more work to be done and we are facing many new threats.

Now for the first time since the passage of the landmark environmental laws of the 1970s,  we are close to making significant strides to address environmental, climate and energy related issues.  Bipartisan legislation is being developed in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, and significant steps have been taken already by this administration to ease the impact of human activities on the natural world, for our benefit, and for the benefit of generations to come.  We do not have to choose between creating jobs and protecting the environment or between jobs and solving climate change.  The economy of the 21st Century will be built on infrastructure powered by clean energy and, as Gaylord Nelson once wrote, “all economic activity depends upon the… air, water, soil, forest, minerals, wetlands, rivers, lakes, oceans, wildlife habitat, and scenic beauty.”  These, he said, “are the accumulated capital resources of a nation. Take them away and what you have left is a wasteland.”

Today, as the world pauses to consider the awe-inspiring power of our choices, let us reflect on what we stand to lose if we fail to act and what we stand to gain if we make the commitment to improve the air, water and land upon which we depend.  It is clear that Earth Day is not about the next government proclamation or regulation; this day is about the actions of individuals – the amazing power of one person to accomplish change.

The threats to our planet are global; they are broad and overwhelming.  But they are also very personal.  The choices we make today will shape our world for generations to come.  Though it may seem improbable to suggest that each person has the power to make a change, in saving our planet and improving our communities, it is certainly true.

April 22, 2010 Earth Day 2

It is estimated that by the year 2050, 40 years from now, the global population will be 9.4 billion people, adding more strain to our ecosystems.  If personal responsibility for the Earth is truly as simple as conserving water, choosing public transportation or carpooling whenever possible, making your home more energy efficient, buying local sustainably produced food, recycling and reusing goods, there is little reason for any of us to deny our individual power to bring about change.

It is all too easy to imagine that the problems people currently face are a world away — across an ocean, on other continents.  It is too easy to imagine problems such as a lack of clean water, vicious storms, and insufficient food supplies as not our own.  I know that when it comes to the future of the Earth, the continent that seems so removed could just as easily be my backyard.  On this 40th Earth Day, I am proud to call Vermont, the Green Mountain State, my home, and Vermont has been a leader in helping to show the way forward in protecting the Earth.

As we celebrate the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, each of us can renew our commitment to our planet – our home.  We can use our power as individuals to work together toward a cleaner environment and a healthier planet.  As part of the legacy we leave for our children and our grandchildren, let them enjoy a society that is secure in its commitment to a healthy and environmentally sound future.  On this 40th anniversary of Earth Day, while we remember the pioneering spirit of Gaylord Nelson, we must honor his legacy and continue turning his words into action.

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