07/06/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

World Environment Day and Global Consumption - We Use, They Lose

World Environment Day was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1972, the same year they established the United Nations Environment Programme. World Environment Day is celebrated on June 5 in a different host city each year with a different theme. This year the host city is Mexico City, Mexico. The theme, to no one's great surprise, is "Your Planet Needs You - UNite to Combat Climate Change".

World Environment Day is envisioned to promote a core agenda:

* Give a human face to environmental issues;
* Empower people to become active agents of sustainable and equitable development;
* Promote an understanding that communities are pivotal to changing attitudes towards environmental issues;
* Advocate partnership which will ensure all nations and peoples enjoy a safer and more prosperous future.

In the United States, we have an opportunity to realize these goals in a way that is proportionate to our impact. Our lifestyles, our consumption patterns, the way we use resources, the waste we generate and the way we deal with our waste are all major contributing factors in the degradation of our environment in general and the problem of climate change in particular. Our impact is vastly out of proportion to our numbers. We have one of the world's highest rates of greenhouse gas emission per-capita. Island nations are beginning to be overtaken by sea level changes and it is our energy consumption and waste that is driving that change. Global weather changes causing flood and drought have become more volatile as our leaders have continued to debate the merits of requiring meaningful changes in regulation of coal plants or fuel economy standards.

We need to take seriously the agenda promoted by the United Nations and realize our contribution through multiple approaches. President Obama has laid out a vision a new energy economy, an increase in green jobs, a transition to renewables and has called for accomplishment of these objectives on a fast track. That's a start. As I've pointed out in previous postings, the Waxman Markey American Clean Energy and Security Act moving through Congress lays down a marker for change, but does not aspire to go far enough fast enough. We need to bring together the President's vision, the actions of Congress, the scientific imperatives and our sense of morality to find the path that will truly make a global impact. And we can do this by letting the best parts of our American character, ingenuity and compassion lead us, but it has to be a willful decision to act, not a delegation of responsibility to corporate lobbyists or deal makers to figure something out and let us know what they come up with.

As you acknowledge or celebrate World Environment Day, realize that we have a major ownership stake in the current state of the climate crisis. Real people, real families are experiencing hardship as a result of our failure to act. As such, our contribution to global initiatives which will spare us the worst consequences of climate change must be large, swift and bold. Those initiatives start with each of us, what we demand from our leaders and what we tolerate from corporate entities whose behavior contributes to the problems. Demand more, tolerate less. Celebrate World Environment Day by taking action today.