Huffpost Green
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Whit Jones Headshot

A Dash of Hope From An Earth Day Cynic

Posted: Updated:

If you are like me, it's easy to be cynical on Earth Day. For one day the public's attention is turned to the environment, but largely what they see is advertisements for superficial eco-products, greenwash from some of the biggest and dirtiest corporations, and talking points from politicians - there is very little discussion of creating a bright green economy that can address our economic and environmental crises and provide opportunities to communities who are too often stricken with environmental injustice.

It's easy to cast Earth Day off as nothing but a wasted opportunity, but only if we waste it. This should be our day! It's up to each of us to talk to someone about why we do what we do, and recruit them into our efforts. Take a moment to talk up your great work, celebrate!

I'll start: Today, as we celebrate the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day, I'm excited because I'm actually thinking about the future. Millennials are on a generation-wide mission to transform our society and economy to one that works for us, to one that will provide millions of jobs for our generation, and put us to work staving off the climate crisis.

We are visioning another world. We want our country to be powered by 100% clean electricity by 2020, and we are going to work for it. This spring in hundreds of communities and on hundreds of campuses young people began to envision how their own communities could work to this. And as we celebrate here in the U.S., our local and nation visions are being connected with the global movements at the World People's Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth. Our friends and colleagues have accepted the invitation of Bolivian President Evo Morales to join hundreds of governments, and thousands of community and environmental justice leaders from across the world to envision another world and plan how to make it real.

And our work is beginning to pay off: Last week another coal plant was put on hold in Kentucky, and campuses are beginning to take the next step to move beyond coal by retiring existing coal plants. Just yesterday the President of the University of Montana announced that they'll be carbon neutral by 2020. And we aren't letting up. Last night we heard that ActivUS, a student group at Iowa State University, got their student government to pass a resolution to move the campus beyond coal, and this morning young activists from across Massachusetts woke up from their Leadership Campaign "sleep out" on Boston Commons to go lobby their legislature to move the state to 100% clean electricity by 2020.

Our political demands of elected officials are being backed up by our own progress, and we intend to build on this. This summer, Energy Action Coalition is joining a host of other great summer initiatives like the Summer of Solutions to actually get to work building the clean energy economy. In 10 locations around the country, over 200 young people are dedicating their precious summer breaks to getting to work in the communities. In a number of the locations like Cleveland, OH, Detroit, MI and Washington, DC this means building demand for home weatherization and green jobs through community engagement. In Fredricksburg, VA and Salt Lake City, UT it's a matter of fighting dirty coal and tar sands development and promoting the true solutions to our energy crisis: energy efficiency and renewables.

We are taking all of the great local work to build an electoral campaign from the ground up. Supporting one another to organize around the elections around local issues and campaigns that will continue to inspire and mobilize Millennials to turn out to the polls in record numbers. This is new stuff, this is different, and it's exciting.

As I write this, it dawns on me that maybe part of the reason these stories aren't the headlines of Earth Day is because they aren't confined to a single day. Our generation is learning to treat every day like Earth Day, and is learning how to take real meaningful action that is hard to encompass in a sound bite. If our generation succeeds, the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, in the year 2020, is really going to be a moment of celebration.

From Our Partners