In January of 1776, Philadelphia essayist Thomas Paine published a 47-page pamphlet that changed the world. Within three months, Common Sense had sold 150,000 copies -- in a land of just 2.5 million people -- framing the terms of debate for the American colony's epic break from British rule. By July of that year, the national conversation charged by Paine's work culminated in the Declaration of Independence.
In that hallowed tradition, Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, has penned a modern classic in revolutionary thought. Titled Clean Energy, Common Sense, this book calls on us, as a nation, to rise to the challenge of climate change while there's still time to act.
Time is of such essence, Frances writes, that every American of conscience must
be engaged. Reading this essay is an essential first step.
Like Paine's pamphlet, Clean Energy, Common Sense is small enough to fit into your pocket and brief enough to read in two hours. It is accessible and timely and destined to shape the climate conversation now, when it matters most.
Because right now, the Senate is debating the single most important environmental bill of this generation: a clean energy and climate act that could generate millions of jobs and slash our global warming emissions.
But the stakes are higher still. In a few days, President Obama will travel to China, where climate change and clean energy will be top of the agenda. No doubt both nations will be positioning themselves for the international climate talks in Copenhagen in December.
This is a pivotal moment in our nation's history, a time when complex and fateful decisions must be made.
There are people of good will who hear claims on both sides of the climate change debate and aren't sure what to believe. If that feels familiar, this little book is for you.
In a clear and compelling tone, Beinecke draws from the most current and authoritative sources anywhere to lay out the case for American action against world climate change. She outlines solutions that can help get American workers back on their feet, strengthen our country and set us on the path to a clean energy future.
And she calls on each of us to take up paper and pen to urge Congress to act.
This is what I find so inspiring about Beinecke's book. I believe that the act of making our voices heard is the best of American politics. I have seen it work time and again -- I have seen citizens, neighborhoods, entire communities carry the weight of truth to our lawmakers. But in order to succeed, we must raise our voices loudly and fully. This is what Beinecke moves us to do.
I have known Beinecke for more than 35 years, and I admire her unwavering commitment to protecting the environment. Beinecke's dedication and intelligence make her a formidable fighter, but she is also an optimist. She trusts that green solutions and smart policies can diffuse the climate crisis. And she believes that we can create a cleaner, healthier planet for our children.
This is the spirit that infuses her book. Beinecke writes:
This book is a call to action, one citizen's honest appeal. It is not a political treatise. It is not a partisan screed. Maybe that's because my politics on this are simple. I believe Democrats and Republicans alike have a real chance here to lead, to look to the future and show us the way to a brighter future.
Two centuries ago, Paine wrote, "I offer nothing more than simple facts, plain arguments, and common sense." That's precisely the approach Beinecke has taken in her stand against climate change. Simple facts, plain arguments, and common sense. It's all there in her book.
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