Did you find it hard to sleep the night before election day? Me too. However, it wasn’t pre-election jitters that kept me and my wife awake, but our little newborn baby, Genevieve.
As I got out of bed a little before dawn on election day to take my shift, I thought about the polls opening on the East Coast and wondered whether the day would end in celebration, disappointment or indecision. Rocking sweet Genevieve back to sleep in the darkness of our bedroom, I also thought about what the country might be like when our little girl is able to vote. Will voters still have to wait in line for hours? Will ads from wealthy donors still dominate the airwaves? Will we finally have modernized voter registration?
Now we know that President Obama will get another four years in office. In re-electing the president, voters have handed him both an opportunity and a challenge. During his first term, Barack Obama was the first American president to clearly articulate a vision of America leading the world toward a clean-energy future that can meet the challenge of a changing climate. Now, he has four more years to deliver on that promise.
The past week has underscored the urgency of this challenge. As families in the Northeast try to rebuild after Hurricane Sandy, and as all of us gird ourselves for more consequences of climate disruption, the American people deserve and demand strong leadership on this issue.
Here’s how President Obama can start delivering that leadership right now:
• First, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must finish the job it has begun of cleaning up dirty power plants. Working with the U.S. EPA to finalize carbon pollution standards for new power plants and to begin emphasizing efficiency and clean energy over currently operating plants will continue to be a high priority for the Sierra Club and our partners in the environmental community.
• The president should take a hard look at what burning toxic tar-sands oil would mean for our climate future—and reject Canada’s plan to pump dirty tar sands through our farmlands and water sources.
• Make conservation and public recreation the top priority for our public lands and use the Antiquities Act to establish national monuments that will protect entire landscapes for this and future generations to enjoy.
• Last, but not least, President Obama must boldly elevate the issue of climate disruption and climate solutions. The American people understand and accept that the climate crisis is upon us. They also know that—with Iowa and South Dakota generating more than 20 percent of their power from wind and with solar-industry jobs growing at more than 10 percent annually—a clean-energy future is already here. We need strong leadership and action to address our climate challenge directly and to build on this clean-energy growth.
By the time my daughter is eligible to vote, we’ll need to have done a lot more than modernize voting and clean up our elections, though both are vital to a strong democracy. By 18 years from now, we should be well on our way to a clean-energy turnaround. The urgency of fighting climate change should be undebatable, and dirty fuels should be viewed as anachronisms from a distant era.
Congratulations Mr. President. It’s been a long, hard fight to reach this day. Now, let’s move forward on the challenges—and the opportunities—that this election has made possible.