Current Environmental Issues & Priorities

There is so much disruption to the environment going on in the world now, due to results of unrestrained policies and practices worldwide, that there is no sense in hiding our heads in our own little lives anymore. We need to know who is righting the wrongs and how we can help to create a new and vibrant future.

Yes, we have the power and tools to do that now. Although we are used to governments and multi-national corporations taking the big actions we, the people, with our global awareness, combined with the communicative power of the Internet and cooperative power of nonprofits, can team up to affect the world's future.

It starts with knowing what we care about and who we want to ally with. If one thing you care about is the health of the earth we live on, you will want to team up with others who have the same concern. Here are the current environmental issues and priorities of key figures and top nonprofit organizations in the United States.

President Obama addressing a crowd of concerned citizens in New Hampshire.
President Obama addressing a crowd of concerned citizens in New Hampshire. | Source

“The President has taken unprecedented action to build the foundation for a clean energy economy, tackle the issue of climate change, and protect our environment.” - White House Webpage.

U.S. President Obama's 2nd Term Priorities

According to a December 19, 2012 article in TIME Magazine, one of President Obama's top three priorities for his second term will be dealing with climate change. His staff has already done the research and has estimated that the cost of 2012 natural weather disasters alone amounted to more than $100 billion. You can see the figures and the action he is taking on his White House website (link on right).

Once he steps down from office, Obama plans to set up a nonprofit organization to prepare citizens to run for political office. During the last election there were over 80,000 voters who said they would be interested in running for office, if they knew what to do.

2016 Leading U.S. Presidential Candidates

You might wonder where the leading U.S. presidential candidates stand with regards to environmental issues. Take a gander.

Bernie Sanders - According to an article in Mother Jones (05/14/15) Bernie Sanders was recently ranked as the Senate's number one leader on global warming. His leadership, voting record, and speeches have all been consistently supportive of key environmental issues over time. His special interest is solar power.

Hillary Clinton - Clinton understands the science of global warming and acknowledges climate change, but still supports fossil fuels development, including fracking. Her primary environmental interest is in reducing carbon emissions worldwide. In 2007 she cowrote with Bernie Sanders the Green Jobs Act (which passed) that allocated funding for clean energy, research, and job training.

Chris Christie - In 2009 Christie spoke in favor of solar power and offshore wind power, and in 2011 he said that if the scientific experts are claiming humans contributed to climate change, they should be listened to. But also that year Christie pulled his state of New Jersey out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (a cap-and-trade system that helps reduce emissions from fossil fuels plants). By bipartisan vote his state legislature twice tried to rejoin it and Christie vetoed it each time. And now that he's running for president, he seems to be headed more right, according to MSNBC (09/18/14).

Donald Trump - Trump built a $1 billion golf course on top of environmentally sensitive 4,000 year old Scottish sand dunes in 2008. Even though the property had been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest, the Scottish government gave him permission, due to economic benefits outweighing environmental costs. Now he is fighting against the construction of an offshore wind farm 2 kilometers away from the golf course, although he knew about those plans before he started building.

Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) Priorities

NRDC is a 40 year old nonprofit that uses cooperation backed by litigation as its main tools to effect change. With their 1.3 million members and activists, and a staff of 350 advocates they are "one of the nation's most powerful environmental groups," according to the New York Times. NRDC works with businesses, politicians, and community groups to curb global warming, revive the oceans, and reduce toxic chemicals in our daily lives, which they have identified as the most challenging issues of today.

Climate Change - According to Francis Beinecke, NRDC's President, "Climate change is absolutely central to what we do." This year NRDC intends to make sure that President Obama follows through on his commitment to act on climate change, especially to limit the production of carbon dioxide from coal and nuclear power plants. They report that in 2012 there were records broken all over the United States in weather extremes. With all sites added together, there were 1232 days of record rainfall, 98 days of record snowfall, and 2082 days of record heat.

Sierra Club's Major Issues

Started by John Muir in 1892 the Sierra Club continues to protect our wild landscapes and watersheds. Its active goals are much the same as those for prior recent years, with a stronger focus on the opposition to fracking. Here are their priorities:

The Sierra Club protects wild places for human enjoyment and for the wildlife that lives there. This is a stretch of the Rio Grande near Albuquerque NM.
The Sierra Club protects wild places for human enjoyment and for the wildlife that lives there. This is a stretch of the Rio Grande near Albuquerque NM. | Source

Clean Water - With their 12,000 trained volunteers working at 51 project sites in 21 states, the Sierra Club Water Sentinals continue to monitor enforcement of the Clean Water Act passed 40 years ago. Although our nation's waters are cleaner than they have been since the act was passed, 44% of streams, 64% of lakes, and 30% of estuaries still do not meet minimum water quality standards. In addition, agribusiness operations and city sewage systems discharge nearly four billion pounds of toxic chemicals into the nation's waters each year. Now fracking is endangering our groundwater as well.

The Sierra Club has committed to protecting our waters and cleaning up Superfund sites. They also monitor the votes of congress people to see who supports the environment and who doesn't. Here is their "report card," in case you are interested in checking out your own representatives: US Congressional Clean Water Report Card

Fossil fuels have no part in America’s energy future – coal, oil, and natural gas are literally poisoning us. The emergence of natural gas as a significant part of our energy mix is particularly frightening because it dangerously postpones investment in clean energy at a time when we should be doubling down on wind, solar and energy efficiency.”Robin Mann, Sierra Club President

Reduction of Fossil Fuels - The Sierra Club has three initiatives focusing on climate change, specifically the reduction in production of fossil fuels. All three types of fossil fuels historically produced in the US are heavy polluters and major contributors to climate change: Coal, oil, and natural gas. The club's Beyond Coal initiative has been highly successful in reducing coal production so far, with coal now accounting for just 32% of all power production in the US - the lowest in its history. Their Beyond Natural Gas initiative will be the one really gearing up, as action increases to combat fracking.

Resilient Wildlife Habitats - Taking protection of wildlife habitats a step further, the Sierra Club plans to find ways to reshape habitats already being affected by climate change to make them more resilient and supportive of wildlife. To start the process, on their website they have placed a petition that urges the Obama administration to help protect wildlife habitats from climate change. To sign the petition, click here.

OccupyWallStreet stands for the constitutional right of citizens of the United States to freely assemble. They have developed and promote procedures for the public to make its discontent known peacefully.
OccupyWallStreet stands for the constitutional right of citizens of the United States to freely assemble. They have developed and promote procedures for the public to make its discontent known peacefully. | Source

Occupy Wall Street Teams Up on Projects

Many U.S. chapters of the worldwide Occupy movement are inviting their members to support the grassroots organization, Tar Sands Blockade - a coalition of landowners and climate justice organizers from Texas and Oklahoma. TSB is leading the local fight to stop construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. They have invited other concerned citizens and groups to join with them in solidarity. TransCanada, anticipating federal approval of the pipeline, has already started building in Texas.

Recent experience with existing tar sands pipelines in Michigan (not Keystone's) and Nebraska has proven that pipeline spills and leaks are common and that they seriously contaminate the groundwater - poisoning drinking water and destroying crops. The Keystone XL pipeline will be twice as long and half again as wide as those previously built, extending through the Ogallala Aquifer - one of the nation's largest that irrigates 20% of the nation's agricultural produce.

Production of tar sands oil is, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency, 82% more carbon intensive than regular crude oil. NASA climate scientist, James Hansen, has publicly declared that the Keystone pipeline will be "game over" for the climate if it is built.

This is one of many upcoming actions supported by Occupy Wall Street. Although the actions Occupy chooses to work with seem disparate on the surface (hurricane relief, corporate responsibility, government oversight), the actual purpose of Occupy is to support the creation of public assemblies that amass in protest of harmful policies and practices. Occupy has been developing their peaceful assembly procedures and supporting technology since the movement first started in 2011. This year they will be actively training communities (the 99%) to take collective action on their concerns.

350.org Priorities for This Year

This nonprofit, working in 188 countries, is also focusing on climate change, but from the economic side. With their new "Do the Math Tour," they are already drawing attention to the way in which investors like us unknowingly support fossil fuels, and encouraging investors to withdraw those investments and place them elsewhere.

By divesting from fossil fuels and investing in renewable energy, investors send a powerful, dynamic signal for real, concrete change. In 2013 students across the United States urged their 190 universities and colleges to reallocate the more than $400 billion they invest in fossil fuels. The City of Seattle has already ordered divestment of its pension funds.

Citizens Climate Lobby Priorities

America's leading climate scientist, Dr. James Hansen, says this about Citizens Climate Lobby: "If you want to join the fight to save the planet, to save Creation for your grandchildren, there is no more effective step you could take than becoming an active member of this group."

The nonpartisan Citizens Climate Lobby was started in 2007 by Marshall Saunders, who realized that individual changes to combat climate change would not be effective when fossil fuel companies had a monopoly on the ear of the government. He realized that most people have no idea how to make their views known to their legislators, and there was nowhere they could learn the skills. He determined to teach what he knew about lobbying.

Now there are over 75 chapters in the United States (and three in Canada), whose members had over 500 meetings with Congress in 2012 and generated over 700 writeups in newspapers. Their focus this year is to strengthen the pressure on Congress to take action on climate change.

With their monthly, national conference calls, the lobby plans projects like writing letters to President Obama asking him to take the lead on climate change, and gathering signatures of support from businesses and organizations for a consumer-friendly carbon fee (December's actions), which is also supported by Exxon, Shell, and BP. Each month new goals are set during the hour long conference call. The group's focus for action in 2014 is . . . climate change.

Are you already involved in nonprofit environmental work?

  • Yes I am.
  • No, but I will get involved.
  • No, not interested enough.
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With so many powerful nonprofit groups all focusing on climate change this year, it is bound to be the year we turn it around. You can help. Check out the websites of the groups you are most interested in and choose one to support. Or do an Internet search for a nonprofit group supporting the project of your choice. Whatever that is, make this be your year to "be the change you want to see."

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Comments 4 comments

leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 3 years ago from Western New York

I'll have to check to see if our investments are supporting fossil fuels or not. There are so many start-ups working on alternative energy sources - I'd rather put my money into those ventures!


watergeek profile image

watergeek 3 years ago Author

Absolutely, Leah. Tip: The biggest retirement fund companies invest the funds of their clients in fossil fuels, especially Vanguard and Fidelity. (My father used to invest through them.) With natural gas supplies increasing from fracking, Fidelity is promoting those kinds of investments again.


HSchneider 3 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

Great Hub, Watergeek. Our polluted environment and its climate change are the most pressing security issues for the world. We all must take up this cause not only in our private lives but also demanding massive change and action from our political leaders. Our future and that of our children will depend on this.


watergeek profile image

watergeek 3 years ago Author

I agree, HSchneider. I think our country is torn by how to handle it too. I just read an article about the government "intelligence" community hooking up with fossil fuels companies to gather information on environmental advocates, labeling them/us as "eco-terrorists." If we don't develop better sources of renewables and cut back on consumption quickly, we're going to lose our future of freedom, as well.

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