04/22/2012 02:31 pm ET Updated Jun 22, 2012

Earth Day Call to Service: Vote Green and Clean in 2012

This Earth Day is a poignant reminder of what's at stake in the 2012 elections. We can recycle and compost to our hearts' content, but unless we vote to clean up politics we won't save our planet from polluters.

We've come a long way since the first Earth Day in 1970. I remember being a small child gathered around a large rainbow parachute in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park singing songs about fighting pollution. Now my own daughter is a small child composting already at age 3 and warily bemused at mom's "give a hoot, don't pollute" owl imitations. A generation of Earth Days has conditioned millions of us to be green in our homes yet we must apply the same ethic to our politics if we want to save our planet and our democracy.

What must we do? Vote green and clean in 2012.

The stakes are high: all of us need clean air and clean water to thrive. Nobel Laureate and Oscar winner Al Gore has laid out the threat. As the former vice president wrote:

Every day, we pump 90 million tons of global warming pollution into the atmosphere as if it were an open sewer. Already, we are experiencing many of the impacts scientists predicted decades ago -- higher temperatures, more extreme weather, the emergence and re-emergence of infectious diseases, and rising sea levels. Scientists have warned us of the disturbing future we are creating for ourselves and our children and grandchildren. At stake is the survival of our civilization as we know it and the type of world we are going to leave as a legacy for those who follow us.

Yet for all the facts, scientists proposing common sense regulation of pollutants are rebuffed by corporate forces pushing to demoralize defund and ultimately destroy the bipartisan record of reforms. Indeed the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy face decimation or elimination under the Republican Party's national agenda. To far too many, science is a four-letter word, and under the modern media's false equivalency standards, a handful of skeptics are viewed as counterweights to the vast majority of scientists who acknowledge mankind's proven role in global warming.

Hence Earth Day 2012 reminds us of the stark choice between Democratic plans to make polluters pay to clean up their messes and President Obama's proposal to end $4 billion in subsidies to Big Oil versus Republican pledges to eliminate the EPA and maintain costly taxpayer subsidies to an already-profitable industry. Saving our planet means choosing to vote green for science-based solutions.

Our planet and our democracy are also jeopardized by the pollution of corporate money in our campaigns. From the Koch Brothers to Karl Rove's super PAC, oil money is saturating politics like never before. Over a billion dollars of corporate money will be belched into negative ads from the Republican side in 2012 to fight those who support green politics. That is why we must not only vote green but vote clean by supporting candidates who pledge to reform the system and return us to one person one vote.

We have been able to beat corporate money with people power before. In California for example, corporate cash lost in June 2010 to progressive populists who defeated Prop 16 (utility PG&E spent $45 million to LOSE a public power grab) and Prop 17 (Mercury Insurance spent over $15 million to LOSE a rate hike measure).

How did we win? We built unlikely coalitions between evangelicals and secular humanists, environmentalists and hunters to promote a conservationist message about clean energy. We identified the money as the message -- disclosing the donors as being in their own corporate interest not the people's. And we walked our talk, keeping campaigns green with low carbon footprints.

This green and clean campaign model can work again in 2012 as we organize to vote for candidates with proven records of protecting health and safety through common sense solutions, and as we build coalitions with Citizens United Reform movements to affirm that in fact only people not corporations are "we the people."

Being green and clean is not just an aspiration but an action. If you want clean air and clean water, vote green politics and clean money in 2012.