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National League of Conservation Voters Annual Dinner

JW Parks EMS

New York, NY

As prepared for delivery

Good evening. It’s great to be here with all of you tonight. Karla, thank you very much for all that you do in Maryland. Gene and Scott, it’s great to be here with you.

The Showtime series Years of Living Dangerously is a brilliant and much needed call to action. Thank you. And our children thank you.

What we saw tonight, and what we see in the aftermath of typhoon Haiyan, tell us one thing for sure: climate disruption is not a prediction. It is here.

The Problem

Climate change is not an ideological issue any more than gravity is. It is physics, pure and simple.

The carbon dioxide content of our earth’s atmosphere is higher now than it has been at any time in 3 million years.[i]

More than 3,500 national weather records were broken for heat, rain, and snow last year.[ii]

Climate change is the transformation that transforms everything.

It requires a transformation of education and language, of mobility and our connection to each other, of farming and forestry, of buildings, energy and cities.

It requires a change in perception that brings forth new solutions and new behavior.

It requires a new way of talking with one another.

And it requires a transformation of imagination.

Change

Today, science is catastrophizing the future.

For good reason—the data support it.

The problem is this: catastrophizing the future—drawing straight-line projections to hell—makes deniers look optimistic and turns science into the problem.

We have become good, haven’t we, at imagining the end of the world, but not so good at imagining a new beginning.

We need LCV to bring forth leaders. Leaders who understand facts. Leaders who communicate possibility. Leaders who take action. Leaders who create a life-giving future.

Today, change and progress come from our nation’s State Houses.

When communities face the consequences of climate disruption—drought, flooding, tornadoes and hurricanes—it is governors and local leaders who are on the scene.

Climate Change and Maryland

A Philippine survivor in Tacloban Island said this of Typhoon Haiyan: “The sea engulfed us.”[iii]

Heat plus oceans. Physics again—pure and simple.

With our miles of coastline, Maryland is one of the most vulnerable states in the nation to the impacts of climate change.

Sea levels along our 3,200 miles of coastlines are rising three to four times faster than the global average.[iv]  Thirteen islands in the Chesapeake have now been swallowed up entirely.[v]

Coastline or not, every state shares the urgency of this moment.  Every state is threatened; every state is needed.

This is not a matter of hoping or wishing.

We need to act: reduce energy consumption, increase renewable standards; create a zero-waste future; move zero-emissions vehicles onto the street; invest in our public transit systems; plant millions of trees; and make good on our greenhouse gas commitments.

By doing these things we are creating tens of thousands of jobs in Maryland.[vi]

We were nowhere in terms of green jobs a few years ago. Today, we’re creating green jobs at the fastest rate of any state in the country.[vii]

Progress

Since 2006, we have reduced peak electricity demand by 10 percent.[viii] We have reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 18 percent.[ix] We have increased renewable energy by 36 percent.[x]

Education Week Magazine has named Maryland the best school system in America for five years running[xi]; we’re one of the top three States in the country for upward economic mobility[xii]; and we’ve achieved the fastest rate of new job creation of any state in our region.[xiii]

And for two years in a row now, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has named Maryland the #1 state in America for Innovation and Entrepreneurship[xiv].

These accomplishments give lie to the assertion that there is an “either/or” choice between our prosperity and our environment—that we can create either a future where there are more jobs, or a future where there is a healthy environment, but not both.

league of conservation voters

The reality is the two goals are indivisible.

The better future we seek is vastly connected and interdependent.

The web of life, though endlessly complex, is seamless.

Our children’s future is not about the pieces. It is about the whole.

What we seek is life, and we seek it more abundantly.

There is no independent salvation on this planet.

We are one habitat.

We cannot become more prosperous without the living systems upon which our prosperity depends.

What good is it for us to increase our consumption if we no longer have air to breathe? Or clean water to drink? Or rainfall for our crops? Or shorelines to walk upon?

The economy we choose—the economies we create—can either steal the future and pretend it is economic growth, or heal the future by investing in life-giving actions, companies, initiatives and technologies.

Conclusion

Author Jonathan Lear in his book about the Crow People called Radical Hope described how the Crow struggled to re-imagine themselves after being stripped of their lands, their way of life, and their culture.

After being placed on a small reservation, unable to hunt and not knowing how to farm, a tribal member said: “I am trying to live a life I do not understand.”

The Crow had to find new concepts with which to construct a living narrative.

Radical hope drives belief. Belief drives action—action intent on reaching a future goodness—a goodness that transcends our present ability to understand how it could come to be.

We human beings are problem-solving animals.

We can create a new narrative. We will solve this. There is a future goodness.

And it is possible because it is within each of us.

The most positive thing of all is to realize that all of our actions are in fact connected.

It’s not just about climate change. Its not just about restoring natural resources like the Chesapeake Bay. It’s not just about reducing homicides and violent crime. It’s not just about improving education.

It’s about doing all of those things together.

And doing them now.

Thank you—each of you—for your tireless work on behalf of life and our future.

What we stand for is what we stand on.

 


[i] The Keeling Curve, which measures the proportion of carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere, surpassed 400 parts per million in 2013. Scientists estimate that this is the first time carbon has reached 400ppm since the Pliocene era 3 million years ago.

[ii] 3,527 monthly weather records were broken nationwide in 2012; 18 of those records were broken in Maryland according to a National Resources Defense Council study.

[iv] In July 2012, the U.S. Geological Survey published research in Nature Climate Change documenting that over the last 20 years, sea levels along the 1,000 kilometer stretch of coast running north from Cape Hatteras to north of Boston, which includes the State of Maryland, have risen at an annual rate three times to four times faster than the global average.

[v] As of 2011, 13 islands in the Chesapeake Bay once mapped on nautical charts had disappeared beneath Bay waters. Many islands in the Bay and some further offshore are also likely to disappear in the next century as sea levels continue to rise.

[vi] Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Employment in Green Goods and Services – 2011.”

[vii] Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Employment in Green Goods and Services – 2011.”

[viii] Maryland drove down per capita electricity peak demand by 10.8 percent from 2007 to 2012. https://data.maryland.gov/goals/energy-efficiency

[ix] Maryland reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 18 percent against the 2006 baseline if the Administration had taken no action. https://data.maryland.gov/goals/greenhouse-gases

[x] Maryland drove up its renewable energy generation by 36% since 2007. At the end of 2007 renewable energy accounted for only 5.8% of Maryland’s total energy generation; by the end of 2012 renewable energy grew to 7.9% of Maryland’s total energy generation. https://data.maryland.gov/goals/renewable-energy

[xi] Education Week. “Quality Counts,” http://www.edweek.org/ew/qc/2013/state_report_cards.html

[xiv] US Chamber of Commerce. “Enterprising States: Getting Down to Small Business,” April 2013. http://foundation.uschamber.com/PDF/ES2013.pdf and US Chamber of Commerce. “Enterprising States: Policies that Produce,” June 2012. http://foundation.uschamber.com/PDF/ES2012.pdf

 

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