Commentary

Do not abandon hope – climate solutions are possible

On Earth Day, recommit to citizen action

April 22, 2022 7:00 am
climate crisis world globe fire action march in DC

Fire Drill Fridays action on climate crisis in Washington D.C. | Photo by Ted Eytan CC BY-SA 2.0

Here in Wisconsin, we’ve become used to hearing about massive flooding, wildfires, contaminated water from corporate polluters, and growing disparities for Black and brown communities. 

The constant news reports about climate disasters can fill one with a deep sense of anxiety. Lately, however, there have been important signs of progress.

The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report released on April 4 delivered a contrasting narrative. The report shows solutions to a warming planet are possible, if we act immediately. It also reported the potential for robust economic growth through new clean energy industries and the jobs they’ll provide. Here in Wisconsin, producing more renewable energy sources would allow us to create our own energy rather than sending our money and jobs to other states while importing dirty fuels.

Gov. Tony Evers understands this potential as he clearly outlined in his newly released Clean Energy Plan which anticipates creating 40,000 new jobs by 2030. With the input his office collected from tribal nations, frontline communities, private industry  and others, he laid out equitable solutions for building this renewable infrastructure — including apprenticeship tracks and pathways at tech colleges to develop skills for the industry.

There’s hope and inspiration to be found in the fact that this is the state’s first ever clean energy plan — and one that creates opportunities for communities most affected by climate change. 

This plan builds on the work many local elected officials, activists, citizens, and young people have already done to address the climate crisis. The IPCC report, the governor’s clean energy plan, and the people dedicated to addressing the crisis, make it clear that governments at every level must invest and commit to reducing emissions. 

We cannot improve the climate crisis — or live healthy, prosperous lives — without bold climate action from our representatives at every level of government. But that takes your voice.

Local governments across Wisconsin continue to pass clean energy resolutions. Communities such as Brown County, the Town of Peshtigo, De Pere, Menomonie and many more have already made clean energy commitments. On April 5, Wisconsin voters elected over 70 candidates at the local level who are committed to addressing the climate crisis in places like Eau Claire, Portage County, La Crosse County, and Appleton. An increasing number of city councils and county boards are laying out plans for net-zero emissions by 2050 and earlier.

This is good news.

For lasting change to happen, though, we need bold climate action at the federal level as well. In 2020, the House of Representatives passed legislation that included strong climate provisions, but now we need the Senate to act immediately and pass a legislative package that includes steps that transition us away from dirty fossil fuels. Wisconsin Representatives Gwen Moore, Mark Pocan and Ron Kind did their jobs voting for this historic legislation, and Sen. Tammy Baldwin has been a vocal champion, but the rest of the Senate needs to step up and finish the job.

This package would mean investments in Wisconsin that would have ripple effects in our communities like clean good-paying jobs and industries that don’t pollute our neighborhoods. It could also fund the many already existing initiatives in our state.

A more equitable and sustainable future is attainable, but it requires involvement from everyday citizens – even if in small ways. One easy (and fun) way is to attend one of the many Earth Day events hosted by your local community organizations. It’s a great way to get involved and learn about how you can take action rather than just worry.

Encouraging your elected representatives to invest in renewable energy and clean water standards truly does have an impact. Donating to organizations led by Black, indigenous, and people of color such as Black Leaders Organizing for Communities (BLOC) and Leaders of Kenosha help these frontline organizations advocate for racial justice — a critical component of addressing the climate crisis equitably. 

There is no denying the change in our climate driven by human activity is the greatest threat to our happiness and prosperity in generations. We must remember, remaining optimistic in the face of a daunting challenge isn’t naïve. It’s how we make progress.

There are thousands of people in Wisconsin working hard to foster real change. They could use your help. Progress is possible, but that means all of us who care about a healthy future for ourselves and those we love, must act – for everyone.

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Kerry Schumann
Kerry Schumann

Kerry took the reins at Wisconsin Conservation Voters in 2004 and rapidly moved the organization from a two-person startup to the political force it is today. From day one, Kerry led Wisconsin Conservation Voters to adopt a locally-based citizen engagement model, believing firmly that citizens must lead and be engaged in their democracy in order to protect the environment. As Executive Director, Kerry’s focus is developing top-notch staff, building an effective Board of Directors, working directly with our supporters, and helping the entire team stay focused on the mission and vision of Wisconsin Conservation Voters.

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