Tuesday, June 4, 2013

American Environmental Activism in 2013

The US environmental movement is represented by a wide range of NGOs of varying sizes. Some operate on the local level while others operate nationally and internationally. Some of the largest and most influential environmental organizations in the US are:

Environmental Defense Fund
National Audubon Society
National Wildlife Federation
Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)
Friends of the Earth
Sierra Club
World Wide Fund for Nature
Greenpeace USA

These organizations and many others have championed a host of different causes including fisheries, wildlife, forests, wilderness and biodiversity. More recently they have focused on ozone depletion, acid rain, air pollution and water pollution. The overarching issue garnering the most activity is climate change, specifically efforts to reduce greenhouse gases. Part of this effort supports the broad spectrum of environmental actions known as sustainability.

US. conservationists have enjoyed many successes including saving some of America's precious wild areas. This includes Storm King Mountain (New York), San Francisco Bay, (California), Pelican Island, (Florida), Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center (Texas), Dinosaur National Monument (Utah and Colorado), Horicon Marsh (Wisconsin) C&O Canal (Maryland).

Thanks in large measure to the dedicated work of environmental activists in the US we have seen considerable progress on a number of fronts including asbestos, acid rain, DDT, open air nuclear tests, endangered species, habitat preservation, toxic waste, waste recycling, leaded gasoline, ozone, water pollution, air pollution, mercury emissions, short-lived climate pollutants (SLCP) and soot.

Today, American environmentalists are more united than ever. The leaders of US environmental organizations share a common sense of urgency. Currently they are primarily focused on domestic regulations to control climate change causing GHG emissions and resisting the Keystone XL pipeline.

Diverse environmental groups support regulations on coal, mercury and ozone, plus existing and new rules for carbon emissions. They are also united in their opposition to the Keystone XL.

While the final decision on the Keystone XL has yet to be made, several years of mass protests have stalled the pipeline. Environmental activists appreciate the importance of resisting the Keystone XL because the 1,700 mile carbon heavy oil sands represent a volume of greenhouse gases that could push the planet over a climate tipping point.

There have been a number of protests across the country including one last February that organizers described as "the largest climate rally in US history." This level of activism gives us reason to believe that the environmental movement is coming of age in the US.

On Sunday February 17th 2013, at least 35,000 people came together to put a stop to the Keystone XL and demand action action on climate change. As Greenpeace director Philip Radford wrote about those gathered at the Climate Forward Rally, "a new, diverse coalition of Americans," are coming together to demand climate justice.

Although climate legislation was unsuccessful in President Obama's first four years, growing activism is putting pressure on government to act in the President's second term. Environmental activists are helping to sway public opinion and the Climate Forward Rally may be the first step towards unprecedented climate action in the US.

© 2013, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.

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