I have a lot to be thankful for this Labor Day: a job that I'm passionate about, a family that's happy and healthy, and a president who cares deeply about the well-being of our country, even if he and I disagree on a thing or two.
Not everyone is so lucky, though.
Around the world, pollution, accidents and deaths related to the procurement of fossil fuels happen every day. Just this week, a photojournalist captured shocking, saddening images of the apparent death of a Chinese firefighter, who - after being sent into a sea of black sludge to clean a pump - was suddenly overwhelmed by oil and sucked under the surface, never to be seen again. And in Nigeria's Niger Delta, residents have dealt with the equivalent of the Exxon Valdez oil spill every year for 50 years!
In our own country, this summer has been choc-full of particularly poignant reminders, beginning with the Upper Big Branch mine disaster in West Virginia - which killed 29 miners - and continuing with the endless fallout from the epic BP oil spill, which claimed 11 lives and wreaked havoc on the region's sensitive ecosystems. Luckily, no laborers' lives were lost when a second rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico earlier this week.
I can't help but think that if more green jobs existed in our country - manufacturing wind turbines, for example, or building concentrated solar power plants - perhaps the families of workers like these could sleep a little easier at night, knowing their loved ones weren't in constant danger while trying to make a living.
The truth is that buying and producing more clean energy isn't just good for the environment. It's good for our economy - and good for our country's laborers. After all, energy workers are making daily sacrifices so we can keep our lights on and our homes comfortable. We owe it to them to make their jobs safer and, in the long term, more secure.
As we begin what will be a restful weekend for many Americans, it's also important that we don't forget about those who are working to fix the problems created by America's reliance on fossil fuels. It's not just the Gulf oil spill cleanup crews, who will surely be working overtime this holiday weekend. It's also the crusading community organizers who donate their time and money to teach friends and neighbors about the benefits of buying clean energy.
Use this Labor Day weekend to relax, to fire up the BBQ, to enjoy the company of family and friends, and to be thankful for the many comforts we take for granted. And think about what you can do to be part of our nation's clean energy future.
Brian F. Keane is the president of SmartPower, the nation's leading non-profit marketing organization dedicated to promoting clean, renewable energy and energy efficiency. Learn more at www.smartpower.org.