Heading to St. Paul, Minnesota, for the biggest anti–tar sands march and rally the Midwest has ever seen, I can’t help but think “what a great time to be starting as the Sierra Club’s 57th president.” I’m visiting the Twin Cities to help get the thousands of marchers even more riled up about dirty fuels and more excited about moving this country to clean energy.
I grew up in a family where a core value was to be organized and part of some community association. So the Sierra Club’s close work with grassroots community-focused activists like the ones at the Tar Sands Resistance March is important to me. But more than that, I believe it’s critical to the continued effectiveness of the Club itself.
When it’s my turn to address the determined folks who want to keep tar sands pipelines out of their communities, all I need to do is tell the truth: We don’t want, don’t need, and can’t afford to keep extracting new sources of dirty fuels. And that goes double for the tar sands, the dirtiest form oil there is. Now is the time for the United States to lead a worldwide effort to speed up the 21st century’s complete transformation to clean energy. Now is the time for the U.S. to lead by example and take decisive steps that will keep dirty fuels like coal, fracked gas, and tar sands crude in the ground. And today is the day to say “no” to the Keystone XL pipeline and other dangerous tar sands projects.
I know the people who are fighting the big faceless corporations behind tar sands oil can win, because I’ve been in their shoes. My journey as an activist began close to home, with a decade-long battle that ultimately shut down a government-run garbage incinerator that was poisoning thousands of people in an inner-city community. I later helped lead the fight and secured the Sierra Club’s participation in the Clean Up the Hudson campaign. In the end, we forced General Electric to dredge toxic PCB sediments from the Upper Hudson River.
Now, with climate disruption, we face the greatest environmental challenge of all time. To meet it, we’ll need to change almost everything about how our country works. And to do that, we’re going to need everyone. It’s a big job, but it’s not impossible. We’re already gaining steam. We’re building a strong, authentic movement to confront climate disruption and to galvanize humanity’s response — and in so doing we can shift the world.
It’s going to be an exciting time — so stay green, stay connected, and stay involved.