What Now? Thoughts from Deb Callahan
As part ofPatagonia’s Vote the Environment campaign, we asked Deb Callahan,former President of the League of Conservation Voters and an old friendof Patagonia, to write a brief “letter to President-elect Obama,” withher thoughts on what his priorities should be on behalf of theenvironment. We also include, after Deb’s letter, a note from us atPatagonia, with our thoughts on the year to come. Here is Deb’s Letter:
Congratulations President–elect Obama! The country has voted for hope and change.
Since 2004 when I first met you and worked for your election to theSenate, I have believed in you and your amazing ability to inspireAmericans. Now you are about to become our next president, and I sendyou heart-felt congratulations. You carry the hopes and dreams of anation as you shoulder the responsibilities of the highest office inthe land.
As challenging as the presidency was when you announced yourcandidacy back in February 2007, the job has become even harder as oureconomy has destabilized and the number of people living on the edgegrows daily. I know your first order of business is to unravel the messour country is in, and begin to get things back on track. The list ofneeds facing the country is long: war, recession, jobs, health care,education. As you begin your transition, you’ll set your priorities andformulate a strategy to drive your top two or three initiatives throughCongress.
I urge you to keep your promise to make climate change and energypolicy an early and a top priority for the new Obama administration.The planet is warming dangerously, and without fast and significantsteps the results will be catastrophic in our children’s lifetimes.
Let’s talk about an international treaty on climate change: The UnitedStates’ recalcitrance in joining an international agreement on climatechange has hurt the cause of stemming global warming and America’simage as a world leader. The federal government must formulate its newapproach to climate change by December 2009, when 189 nations willconvene in Copenhagen, Denmark to discuss, debate and sign thesuccessor to the Kyoto climate change treaty. But prior to thatauspicious gathering, you must appoint your cabinet and other officialswho will lead America’s drive on global warming, and the US Congressmust enact federal legislation to address global warming. Suchlegislation will not only stimulate domestic action to reducegreenhouse gases, it will also give our negotiators the bargainingpower they’ll need in Copenhagen.
With only thirteen months until that critical international meeting onclimate change, there is no time to lose! We need your leadership onclimate and energy issues now.
President-elect Obama: Have a good, but short, vacation. You have a lot to do, and a nation hungry to help you do it.
With respect and best wishes,
-Deb Callahan, former President, League of Conservation Voters and President, North Star Strategy
And a note from us at Patagonia:
This is not only Obama’s victory. It is ours. The candidate with thebest environmental record won. Now let’s roll up our sleeves and go towork.
This morning, we still have to create the change we believe in, in manydaily ways and places. We still have to stop the local developer fromdespoiling a hillside with condos, or save the local river mouth whenillegal pollution goes unprosecuted. We have to work for the rights ofwild animals to live and migrate. We still have to fight to save theArctic Refuge and defend Patagonia’s wild rivers.
We still have to think about what we care about in the world and act tosave it – or restore it, or bring it about. And we can’t confuse babysteps with walking tall. Good to buy a hybrid, but then don’t drive itmuch, and – much better – work toward a post-car, post-industrialculture.
Where to invest our hope? Diversify. Environmentalists, during theshutout years of the Bush administration, have done yeoman’s work incity halls and county seats and state capitals. The environment now hasmore friends in Congress and among idealists who staff federalagencies.
Keep your eye on Europe and Japan, which may have things to teach usabout keeping a dense population fed, clothed and educated whilereducing the harm to the environment. Keep your eye on farmers in Indiaand the NGOs who challenge chemical companies trying to patent strains ofrice grown for 4,000 years.
We’re in so much trouble now because we’ve tried to impose – for somany critical human activities – a large and dirty industrial model ona diverse, delicately balanced world. We can do better than that. Andto learn how, we should look – not to our failing industrial model –but to that diverse and beautiful world. Yes, we can.