With the passing of former South African President Nelson Mandela, his profoundly memorable quotations fill us with wisdom and optimism.
"We owe our children -- the most vulnerable citizens in any society -- a life free from violence and fear."
When I taught elementary school, I dealt with resolving conflicts often. Arguments would escalate quickly without intervention:
"He scribbled on my desk."
"Why did you scribble on her desk?"
"She called me a bad name."
"It's not OK to call people bad names, and it's not OK to scribble on desks."
"Now what do we do?"
"You say, 'Sorry, I'll clean it up.'"
With raw emotion, children acknowledge their feelings and learn to take responsibility for their actions. We accept that very young children are self-centered. As they grow, they become more and more egalitarian -- fairness balances selfishness.
We have a similar emotional reaction to climate change. Scientific data, numbers, graphs and disease rates tell facts. But the problem riles up pure emotion -- worry, fear. Why?
Because many politicians are more interested in selfish greed than serving the people who entrusted them with their lives.
Because we don't want to see our children's future at the mercy of an unstable climate.
Because dirty power companies threaten our children's health by suing for the right to pollute.
Whoa! Who would do that?
American Electric Power (AEP), the top emitter of mercury, carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and sulfur dioxide in 2011, is a party to the lawsuit challenging the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards in court. That case was heard in the D.C. Court of Appeals on Dec. 9.
"Part of being optimistic is keeping one's head pointed toward the sun, one's feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair."
We know that worry motivates people to take action. We need to take back our power and not let polluters continue to spew powerful neurotoxins into our air that damage the brains, lungs and hearts of unborn babies, infants and toddlers.
"When people are determined, they can overcome anything."
With optimism, hope and determination and a massive, coordinated social, economic and political effort, we can solve this collective human problem. We need safe, clean, affordable energy now and beyond.
Please join me in telling AEP it's time to stop playing childish, dangerous games and start owning up to their part of the problem.
AEP owes it to our children to play fair and say, "Sorry, I'll clean it up."