Paraphrasing President John F. Kennedy: We choose to conquer the climate crisis not because it’s easy—but because it’s hard. Because the challenge is one we are unable to postpone or ignore and one we intend to win for the preservation of all future generations of human life on this planet.
The United States is perfectly primed to mobilize the world in resolving the climate crisis. We’ve already proven we can do this. Throughout our history, we’ve successfully mobilized to overcome existential threats—not just once, but many times.
After Pearl Harbor—in a matter of months—we converted our assembly lines and factories to produce bombers and tanks instead of cars and trucks. In the process, we helped save the world from the scourge of Nazi domination. Describing our Nation’s vital contribution to the war effort, Sir Edward Grey —British Foreign Secretary—famously noted: “The United States is like a giant boiler. Once the fire is lighted under it, there is no limit to the power it can generate.”
Next—holding true to President Kennedy’s words—we engineered a way to send men to the moon. In the late sixties, we also battled with corporate America over toxic exhaust pollution (the infamous “brown clouds”). In the end, we forced the US auto industry to completely retool their assembly lines—producing more fuel-efficient vehicles with catalytic converters that ran on unleaded gas.
Then—on April 22, 1970—the unexpected magnitude of the response to the first Earth Day clearly showed what can be done when the political and social moods of the country collide. Twenty million people came together with a message that said, “Let’s get something done—and do it now!.” The resultant outpouring of federal environmental legislation and regulations proved that Congress was listening to what the people wanted.
In 1976, we battled with the chemical powerhouse DuPont over the hole in the ozone layer. The final verdict was that Freon—the product primarily responsible for destroying the ozone—was banned for good. Finally—in the late 1980’s—we fought with power plants and manufacturing facilities over the generation of acid rain. The US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Acid Rain Program (ARP) took care of this problem by setting caps on emission of the two main pollutants—nitrogen oxides (NOx) and sulphur dioxide (SO2).
So, what are we waiting for? The climate crisis does not have to remain an ever-burgeoning conundrum. If we act boldly now, we have the proven skills to reach a rapid resolution.
The solutions are right in front us every day. Earth’s renewable energy is abundant and omnipresent. Every time we go outside, we see and feel it all around us. It’s like an endless symphony written by a master composer and played by a world-class orchestra. The golden rays of streaming sunlight are the strings—always there, maintaining the basic rhythm of the interwoven movements. The wind provides the percussion—rising from gentle whispering breezes of the snare drum to bold resounding gusts of the tympani. Moving water blends in with the woodwinds and the brass—transitioning from gently lapping melodic notes of the flute to the lazy ripples of an oboe’s dulcet tones and concluding with rolling waves of trumpet blasts. Best of all, in the process of switching to renewables, we leave the polluting fossil fuels right where they belong—buried in the ground, never to see the light of day.
We are right on the cusp of what we can call the “Renewables Revolution,”—providing a mighty parallel to the Industrial Revolution. The Industrial Revolution resulted in the transformation of our nation from a rural agrarian society to an urban, manufacturing society. Now we are about to totally transform ourselves again—from a hard-edged, fossil-fuel driven economy to a softer-sided renewable energy world.
In fact, the transformation from fossil fuels to renewable energy is already technically possible. The Solutions Project (https://thesolutionsproject.org/) lays out immediate plans for converting each of our 50 states—plus many countries—from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources.
In summary, the Renewables Revolution will bring millions of new jobs along with long-term quality of life preservation. Our children, grandchildren, and all future generations will look back and be forever grateful to us for proactively protecting a livable planet.
Budd Titlow is a professional wildlife biologist, wetland scientist (emeritus), nature photographer, and author of four books. His most recent book—written with his daughter, Mariah Tinger— is PROTECTING THE PLANET: Environmental Champions from Conservation to Climate Change.