06/22/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Earth Day 2010: Celebration Must Inspire Action on Clean Energy & Climate Legislation

Forty years ago, millions of Americans came together to demand cleaner air, safer water and a healthier environment. Their actions - and the actions of millions more since then - have led to the passage of our nation's most important environmental and conservation laws. Today, we celebrate those achievements.

And it's quite a list. Immediately following the first Earth Day we saw landmark clean air and water legislation signed into law. In the proceeding twenty years those laws were strengthened and additional legislation emerged to fight acid rain, protect the ozone layer, save endangered species and improve the way we clean up our waste. Now, forty years from that first Earth Day, we must recognize that today we face a new challenge - the challenge of solving the climate crisis and building a clean energy economy.

Today marks the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, but what once was a day to organize around and demand our lawmakers do better has since become a day to install more efficient light bulbs and celebrate the outdoors. These are great things to do and they are important steps towards respecting and protecting our environment, of course. But looking back on what grew out of the first Earth Day rallies, and the challenge that lies before us, we can and must do more.

We can let ourselves once again be inspired to act boldly and think big. We can rally for new laws to ensure that all Americans can enjoy the clean air and water we asked for forty years ago. We can demand legislation that curbs global warming pollution and creates the jobs of the future. Perhaps most importantly, we can tell our legislators that the time for action is now. Since January 1st, over one million Americans have contacted their senators urging them to pass a comprehensive clean energy and climate bill this year.

To that point, we urge each and every member of the Senate to imagine the stories that our children and grandchildren will hear 40 years from today. Will they hear that in the face of unprecedented opposition from powerful special interests, senators from both parties came together to pass legislation that lays the foundation for a cleaner, safer, more sustainable future? Or will they hear that our lawmakers failed to summon the political will to chart a new course for our nation's energy future?

To protect the planet for future generations, to create new economic opportunities for American workers and to make America more energy independent, the Senate must pass strong, comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation this year.