As part of Patagonia’s Vote the Environment campaign, we asked Deb Callahan, former President of the League of Conservation Voters and an old friend of Patagonia, to write a brief “letter to President-elect Obama,” with her thoughts on what his priorities should be on behalf of the environment. We also include, after Deb’s letter, a note from us at Patagonia, with our thoughts on the year to come. Here is Deb’s Letter:
Congratulations President–elect Obama! The country has voted for hope and change.
Since 2004 when I first met you and worked for your election to the Senate, I have believed in you and your amazing ability to inspire Americans. Now you are about to become our next president, and I send you heart-felt congratulations. You carry the hopes and dreams of a nation as you shoulder the responsibilities of the highest office in the land.
As challenging as the presidency was when you announced your candidacy back in February 2007, the job has become even harder as our economy has destabilized and the number of people living on the edge grows daily. I know your first order of business is to unravel the mess our country is in, and begin to get things back on track. The list of needs facing the country is long: war, recession, jobs, health care, education. As you begin your transition, you’ll set your priorities and formulate a strategy to drive your top two or three initiatives through Congress.
I urge you to keep your promise to make climate change and energy policy an early and a top priority for the new Obama administration. The planet is warming dangerously, and without fast and significant steps the results will be catastrophic in our children’s lifetimes.
Let’s talk about an international treaty on climate change: The United States’ recalcitrance in joining an international agreement on climate change has hurt the cause of stemming global warming and America’s image as a world leader. The federal government must formulate its new approach to climate change by December 2009, when 189 nations will convene in Copenhagen, Denmark to discuss, debate and sign the successor to the Kyoto climate change treaty. But prior to that auspicious gathering, you must appoint your cabinet and other officials who will lead America’s drive on global warming, and the US Congress must enact federal legislation to address global warming. Such legislation will not only stimulate domestic action to reduce greenhouse gases, it will also give our negotiators the bargaining power they’ll need in Copenhagen.
With only thirteen months until that critical international meeting on climate change, there is no time to lose! We need your leadership on climate and energy issues now.
President-elect Obama: Have a good, but short, vacation. You have a lot to do, and a nation hungry to help you do it.
With respect and best wishes,
-Deb Callahan, former President, League of Conservation Voters and President, North Star Strategy
And a note from us at Patagonia:
This is not only Obama’s victory. It is ours. The candidate with the best environmental record won. Now let’s roll up our sleeves and go to work.
This morning, we still have to create the change we believe in, in many daily ways and places. We still have to stop the local developer from despoiling a hillside with condos, or save the local river mouth when illegal pollution goes unprosecuted. We have to work for the rights of wild animals to live and migrate. We still have to fight to save the Arctic Refuge and defend Patagonia’s wild rivers.
We still have to think about what we care about in the world and act to save it – or restore it, or bring it about. And we can’t confuse baby steps with walking tall. Good to buy a hybrid, but then don’t drive it much, and – much better – work toward a post-car, post-industrial culture.
Where to invest our hope? Diversify. Environmentalists, during the shutout years of the Bush administration, have done yeoman’s work in city halls and county seats and state capitals. The environment now has more friends in Congress and among idealists who staff federal agencies.
Keep your eye on Europe and Japan, which may have things to teach us about keeping a dense population fed, clothed and educated while reducing the harm to the environment. Keep your eye on farmers in India and the NGOs who challenge chemical companies trying to patent strains of rice grown for 4,000 years.
We’re in so much trouble now because we’ve tried to impose – for so many critical human activities – a large and dirty industrial model on a diverse, delicately balanced world. We can do better than that. And to learn how, we should look – not to our failing industrial model – but to that diverse and beautiful world. Yes, we can.