THE BLOG
09/01/2013 06:14 pm ET Updated Nov 01, 2013

Delivering on Labor Day

As we pay tribute to the American worker on the 119th celebration of Labor Day, how can we show we are truly grateful?

American workers have built the greatest democracy the world has ever known -- bringing health, prosperity, and freedom to our communities.

They have also built something even more sacred -- pride in who we are, and what our country represents.

Our spirits are lifted too, as we crawl out from under the recent painful recession.

But some dark realities swirl around us.

Unemployment is still at 7.4 percent.

America's middle class, the backbone of our country, is shrinking.

A small percentage of people, in whose hands so much money and power are concentrated, is increasingly calling the shots -- not necessarily with the long term and best interests of the country in mind.

Nowhere is that reality more dangerous to America than in the energy sector.

Though every day we are pounded with unrelenting news about fires, floods, high temperatures, parched lands, and devastating storms -- and reminded of the connections to man made climate change from burning fossil fuels, still being proposed are energy projects that if built, would only make these catastrophes worse.

While way too many examples exist, a focal point of this disconnect is the current campaign to build the Keystone XL pipeline. Though it would create a few jobs, mostly temporary ones, the pipeline, and other projects extracting or using fossil fuels, are destroying us. They are compromising our health, our ecosystems, our national security, and worst of all, our sense of pride.

Are jobs from projects like this any way to treat the American worker?

While industry insiders promise economic gains from the continued extraction and use of fossil fuels -- who, in good conscience can gloss over the costs? Even the short-term costs of cleaning up from weather disasters are overwhelming: the bill for Superstorm Sandy ALONE, whose intensity climate scientist correlate with global warming, is upwards of $70 billion dollars. And that doesn't count the human misery.

As the world heats up, so does the realization that we must act quickly. The jobs that protect our planet -- putting up solar, building wind farms, insulating buildings, greening roofs, forging steel for rail -- are here.

The coal, oil and gas titans will put up a fight, twisting the arms of politicians, writing messages that deceive the public. But they won't win. And no fig leaf of donations to museums, colleges and the like is big enough to hide the self-interest that generates the injustices.

"For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" Mark 8:36

Every major religion in the world declares that we have a moral obligation to be good stewards of the earth.

As we reflect on this Labor Day, in the context of a world desperate for leadership on climate, let us show authentic gratitude to the American worker by vowing that we will do all we can to ensure that none of us has to choose between a pay check, our dignity and the safety of the planet. To those who would request the privilege of representing us in office: tell us where your stand on the energy policies that guarantee jobs we can be proud of and we will act accordingly at the polls.

Eric Chivian, M.D. Associate, Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University; Founder and Director, Emeritus, Center for Health and the Global Environment, Harvard Medical School
Deborah Fikes, Executive Advisor/ World Evangelical Alliance
Dr. James Hansen, former Director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, Adjunct Professor of Earth Sciences, Columbia University
Lise Van Susteren, M.D. for IMAC (Interfaith Moral Action on Climate), Forensic Psychiatrist: Member of the Board: National Wildlife Federation

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