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John is an original Friend of the Planet, and the Founder of the Center for American Progress, a member of its Board of Directors, and a law professor at Georgetown University’s Law School. Not to mention a hero of ours!
ODP: Yesterday was the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. What will it take to recreate that kind of political will to deal with the climate crisis in the fall, through the election, and beyond?
JP: Since the start of the presidential campaign, Democratic leaders have followed the people, particularly young people, not the other way around. Now this activist passion to build an equitable and just future needs to be aimed at voting and convincing friends, neighbors, parents, and grandparents, by zoom or otherwise, that the planet needs their vote.
ODP: You helped to organize the 1990 20th Anniversary events — millions of people participated in thousands of events around the U.S. What was the key to your success?
JP: Great cause, great talent (Ziggy Marley, 10,000 Maniacs, Billy Bragg, Indigo Girls, Michael Stipe, Bruce Hornsby and the Range et al), great political leaders (Al Gore and John Kerry) and great T-shirt design, the sales of which paid for the event.
ODP: How do events like Earth Day help to advance the movement and fundamental environmental protections? Do they build political will?
JP: In 1970, the vision of Gaylord Nelson and Dennis Hayes helped organize the first Earth Day and spark America’s modern environmental movement. In 1990 Earth Day helped pave the way to the Rio Summit. In 2020, young activists will be critical to getting rid of the worst President ever and saving the planet.
ODP: If there is a change in administration next year, given the delay in the IPCC meeting, can the United States quickly regain its status as a trusted global partner on climate action?
JP: To restore global leadership, our new President will have to do two things—commit the US to an ambitious 2030 target that puts us on the path to a net-zero economy by mid-century, and take the necessary steps, hopefully through legislation, but at least through administrative action, that demonstrate the means and the will to meet that target.
ODP: Thinking ahead to Earth Day in 50 more years, are you optimistic about the future in 2070?
JP: 2070 will be determined in the next 10 years; will the world choose a path of global solidarity like we saw in 2015 with the embrace of the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris agreement or will we devolve into division, hate and nationalistic authoritarianism? Because I am an optimist, I would like to think the enormous pain and suffering of responding to COVID-19 might actually increase the chances of the former.
Thank you, John, for sharing your wisdom with our readers. We will keep working to make the next ten years the best ever for the environmental movement!
This week we sat down with Tom Steyer who is currently serving as the co-chair of California’s Task Force on Business and Jobs Recovery. We asked him about how California is handling the COVID-19 recovery and how the state can continue to be a climate leader despite the hit to its budget. Some excerpts: […]
President Trump decided this week to take on Twitter. It’s just another distraction. He wants to us to forget all the lives the pandemic cost, all the pollution his policies have caused, and all the ways he has undermined the public’s faith in government. Tweet on. The truth matters. Even on Twitter.
In a well-researched and thorough story, Vox reporter David Roberts explains why Democrats should finally be hopeful that the numerous factions and “green groups” that make up the Democratic coalition are coming into alignment on climate change policy and that this growing sense of unity bodes well not only for the election but also for governing in the event that Democrats retake the White House.
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