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Public Statements

National League of Conservation Voters Annual Dinner

By:
Date:
Location: New York, NY

Good evening. It's great to be here with all of you tonight. Karla, thank you very much for all that you do in Maryland. Gene and Scott, it's great to be here with you.

The Showtime series Years of Living Dangerously is a brilliant and much needed call to action. Thank you. And our children thank you.

What we saw tonight, and what we see in the aftermath of typhoon Haiyan, tell us one thing for sure: climate disruption is not a prediction. It is here.

The Problem

Climate change is not an ideological issue any more than gravity is. It is physics, pure and simple.

The carbon dioxide content of our earth's atmosphere is higher now than it has been at any time in 3 million years.[i]

More than 3,500 national weather records were broken for heat, rain, and snow last year.[ii]

Climate change is the transformation that transforms everything.

It requires a transformation of education and language, of mobility and our connection to each other, of farming and forestry, of buildings, energy and cities.

It requires a change in perception that brings forth new solutions and new behavior.

It requires a new way of talking with one another.

And it requires a transformation of imagination.

Change

Today, science is catastrophizing the future.

For good reason--the data support it.

The problem is this: catastrophizing the future--drawing straight-line projections to hell--makes deniers look optimistic and turns science into the problem.

We have become good, haven't we, at imagining the end of the world, but not so good at imagining a new beginning.

We need LCV to bring forth leaders. Leaders who understand facts. Leaders who communicate possibility. Leaders who take action. Leaders who create a life-giving future.

Today, change and progress come from our nation's State Houses.

When communities face the consequences of climate disruption--drought, flooding, tornadoes and hurricanes--it is governors and local leaders who are on the scene.

Climate Change and Maryland

A Philippine survivor in Tacloban Island said this of Typhoon Haiyan: "The sea engulfed us."[iii]

Heat plus oceans. Physics again--pure and simple.

With our miles of coastline, Maryland is one of the most vulnerable states in the nation to the impacts of climate change.

Sea levels along our 3,200 miles of coastlines are rising three to four times faster than the global average.[iv] Thirteen islands in the Chesapeake have now been swallowed up entirely.[v]

Coastline or not, every state shares the urgency of this moment. Every state is threatened; every state is needed.

This is not a matter of hoping or wishing.

We need to act: reduce energy consumption, increase renewable standards; create a zero-waste future; move zero-emissions vehicles onto the street; invest in our public transit systems; plant millions of trees; and make good on our greenhouse gas commitments.

By doing these things we are creating tens of thousands of jobs in Maryland.[vi]

We were nowhere in terms of green jobs a few years ago. Today, we're creating green jobs at the fastest rate of any state in the country.[vii]

Progress

Since 2006, we have reduced peak electricity demand by 10 percent.[viii] We have reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 18 percent.[ix] We have increased renewable energy by 36 percent.[x]

Education Week Magazine has named Maryland the best school system in America for five years running[xi]; we're one of the top three States in the country for upward economic mobility[xii]; and we've achieved the fastest rate of new job creation of any state in our region.[xiii]

And for two years in a row now, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has named Maryland the #1 state in America for Innovation and Entrepreneurship[xiv].

These accomplishments give lie to the assertion that there is an "either/or" choice between our prosperity and our environment--that we can create either a future where there are more jobs, or a future where there is a healthy environment, but not both.

The reality is the two goals are indivisible.

The better future we seek is vastly connected and interdependent.

The web of life, though endlessly complex, is seamless.

Our children's future is not about the pieces. It is about the whole.

What we seek is life, and we seek it more abundantly.

There is no independent salvation on this planet.

We are one habitat.

We cannot become more prosperous without the living systems upon which our prosperity depends.

What good is it for us to increase our consumption if we no longer have air to breathe? Or clean water to drink? Or rainfall for our crops? Or shorelines to walk upon?

The economy we choose--the economies we create--can either steal the future and pretend it is economic growth, or heal the future by investing in life-giving actions, companies, initiatives and technologies.

Conclusion

Author Jonathan Lear in his book about the Crow People called Radical Hope described how the Crow struggled to re-imagine themselves after being stripped of their lands, their way of life, and their culture.

After being placed on a small reservation, unable to hunt and not knowing how to farm, a tribal member said: "I am trying to live a life I do not understand."

The Crow had to find new concepts with which to construct a living narrative.

Radical hope drives belief. Belief drives action--action intent on reaching a future goodness--a goodness that transcends our present ability to understand how it could come to be.

We human beings are problem-solving animals.

We can create a new narrative. We will solve this. There is a future goodness.

And it is possible because it is within each of us.

The most positive thing of all is to realize that all of our actions are in fact connected.

It's not just about climate change. Its not just about restoring natural resources like the Chesapeake Bay. It's not just about reducing homicides and violent crime. It's not just about improving education.

It's about doing all of those things together.

And doing them now.

Thank you--each of you--for your tireless work on behalf of life and our future.

What we stand for is what we stand on.


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