THE BLOG
10/14/2014 03:03 pm ET Updated Dec 13, 2014

Prescriptions to Heal a Crippled Planet

Every day there's more bad news about the environment: record drought on the West Coast, massive floods on the East Coast, rising temperatures around the world, polar ice caps melting.

We cannot escape the avalanche of dire warnings that build momentum and create a sense of despair. While the news appears grim, it's not too late to act. That's the consensus from an all-star team of environmental leaders. The prestigious groups that work with scientists to warn the public about man-made dangers to the planet claim we still have the power to make a difference.

From political policies to neighborhood remedies, here are solutions for individuals, groups and even children to implement.

What do you believe is the greatest threat to our environment?

Erich Pica, President, Friends of the Earth
"The greatest threat to our environment is our over-consumption of the planet's resources, fueled by our societies' insatiable appetite for more. Whether it is climate change, water scarcity or food scarcity (too name a few), it is our measurement of growth, of economic well-being and of success that is the greatest threat; manifested most predominantly, perhaps, by climate change."

Ken Cook, President, Environmental Working Group
"In America, it is one of two beliefs: either that environmental problems no longer pose a direct threat to personal health and economic well being, or that environmental problems are so big, individuals are helpless to do anything about them and leave it up to government or professional environmentalists."

Keya Chatterjee, Senior Director of Renewable Energy and Footprint Outreach, World Wildlife Fund
"Climate change is the greatest threat to our environment. Hands down. Climate change is causing sea levels to rise and oceans to warm, leading to habitat loss for species, and will also exacerbate the intense droughts that already threaten crops and freshwater supplies. Climate change poses a fundamental threat to virtually every place on the planet - and people's livelihoods. And its impact is being felt right now. Take for example the largest number of walruses we've seen beached on the shores due to lack of sea ice.

"And what's causing climate change? Our heavily carbon-emitting lifestyles, whether from the way we power our homes and vehicles, to the products we buy.

"In fact, if every human lived the way we do here in the United States, we would need 3.9 Earths. Simple math shows us that's just not possible. So we need to protect the one we do have. And doing so requires us to tackle climate change and secure a renewable energy future. Conserving nature and living sustainably is the only solution, since without a healthy planet, there would be no life on Earth. "

Peter Stauffer, Senior Ocean Program Manager, Surfrider Foundation
"Climate change is the greatest threat to the environment that our world has ever known. The impacts to the oceans alone are staggering. Increased carbon from the burning of fossil fuels is causing our oceans to become more acidic, endangering the future survival of marine life including coral reefs. Meanwhile, rising sea levels are eroding natural coastlines and disrupting sensitive near shore ecosystems. With impacts from climate change already occurring, we need to take immediate action to enhance the resilience of our natural environment. This includes creating marine protected areas that provide refuge for biodiversity and retreating from the coast to allow natural shoreline processes to occur. We also need to take bold steps to reduce consumption of fossil fuels through embracing conservation and renewable sources of energy."

How do you inspire change on a global level?

Erich Pica, FOE
"Friends of the Earth U.S. is part of an international federation of 74 member groups. Each day, our organizations work around the world to demonstrate that there are alternatives to the dangerous path of resource over-consumption. Here in the United States, we recognize that change requires group actions such as the Nebraska-led fight to defeat the Keystone XL pipeline and individual actions such as committing to make environmentally-responsible purchasing decisions. We help to encourage need new models of energy and resource use, and distribution. Finally, Friends of the Earth recognizes that we, as a society, must do more with less. The sharing economy has huge disruptive potential to realign our values."

Ken Cook, EWG
"You get people to adopt everyday habits that improve environmental health, including the habit of being a citizen activist."

Keya Chatterjee, WWF
"We do many things at WWF to inspire change, working in over 100 countries with local communities, governments and other nonprofits to help ensure a healthy planet. We seek innovations to solve the most intractable environmental problems by working with companies to influence commodity production, embedding the value of our natural resources into development and policy, and using technology to make conservation efforts more efficient and effective.

"One of the most important efforts, however, is engaging the public to demand better policies from our own government here at home. For example, WWF was an active recruiter and participant in the historic People's Climate March in late September 2014, which hundreds of thousands of people to the streets of New York City to demand action on climate change."

Peter Stauffer, SF
"Mahatma Gandhi famously said, 'You must be the change you wish to see in the world.' While the global challenges we face seem beyond the scope of individual action, the principle that we all must be a part of the solution still holds true. If citizens support sustainable alternatives like renewable energy, our leaders will follow. Residents of the United States - the wealthiest country in the world - have a unique responsibility to exercise our influence to advance positive change. This applies to our individual actions and consumer choices, as well as participation in the democratic process to strengthen laws that protect our environment."

What one action would have the greatest impact on the environment?

Erich Pica, FOE
"Honestly, we need neighbors talking with neighbors. Friends talking with friends. While individual acts are needed, it will be our collective actions that create the change need to solve the looming ecological crisis. We need collective action at the ballot box, we need collective action to shift our values and we need collective action to take back the power from corporations that feel an inherent economic right to continue minimizing the value of people and nature."

Ken Cook, EWG
"Rapidly shifting the global electricity grid primarily to solar power."

Keya Chatterjee, WWF
"Policy changes to incorporate protection of the environment need to happen to shift the course of our planet's future.

"We're already seeing positive changes, especially in the growing number of cities that are demonstrating their willingness to lead in the transition to a more sustainable future. With good planning and governance, cities can meet human population needs. For example, Illinois communities have embraced renewable electricity on a massive scale not seen anywhere else in the nation, where, as of earlier in 2014, 91 Illinois communities are procuring renewable energy credit for 100% of their residents' electricity. In 2012 Chicago moved its energy supply off of coal, cutting carbon emissions by 16%, virtually overnight."

Peter Stauffer, SF
"Reducing energy consumption is most important way that we can collectively protect the environment. Some examples you can incorporate into your daily life include are below. For more tips, tools and resources, visit surfrider.org."

• Drive less, carpool more
• Use compact fluorescent light bulbs
• Take shorter showers
• Buy energy certificates
• Consume less
• Buy locally produced goods
• Insulate your home
• Ditch single use plastics
• Bring reusable bags to the market
• Plant a tree

How can children take action?

Erich Pica, FOE
"Children will be the most powerful voice. They will inherit the planet that we give them. Children need to talk to their parents and their schools about ways to start protecting the environment."

Ken Cook, EWG
"By exposing them to the thrill of discovering connections--which is really what environmentalism is: understanding that without a healthy environment, none of us can remain healthy for long, and that the surest route to a healthier environment is to live a truly healthy life."

Keya Chatterjee, WWF
"Children are the future of this planet. There's a well-known proverb that says 'We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.' The way we meet our needs today is compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs - the very opposite of sustainable development. Because of this, our children have an urgent need to care and take action because what's being done to the planet now will affect them the most.

"There are so many ways children can act, but most importantly is to influence their families' choices around electricity, transportation, and food. For example, kids can do research and encourage the use of renewable electricity, public transportation, or cutting food waste in their homes. They can also commit to spreading the word about the need for action on climate change, and in fact, a handwritten letter from a child to a politician can be much more powerful than anything adults say. Finally, children can also join with WWF to help with conservation efforts through our Panda Nation program."

Peter Stauffer, SF
"One way is taking part in the Surfrider Foundation's QUAD program. It provides an educational platform, including the tools and resources, for elementary, high school, and college students to engage on their campuses and in their communities. QUAD's approach is project-based and hands-on. It encompasses a wide range of projects from beach cleanups to water quality testing, recycling initiatives to implementing sustainable landscapes. Project-based learning teaches students to: learn about the issues affecting our waterways and coastlines; participate in, and lead, group discussions; find solutions; increase awareness and engage others; most importantly, have fun and make a difference!"

The destruction of our planet is not inevitable. Becoming aware of our consumption and habits, taking part in policy change, and including our children in our actions will make a difference. As Keya Chatterjee states, "We have the ability to change the course of our behavior to create a future where people and nature thrive on this planet."

Dawn Wynne is a best-selling children's author, award-winning teacher, and certified health coach. Combing her love for the environment, passion for nutrition, and teaching talents she works with children and families to help them make healthy lifestyle choices. For information on her books visit her at www.dawnwynne.com.