Right now, we as a nation are at a crossroads. Between us lie two paths, leading to two futures. One is a path toward economic dependence on a finite, fickle resource; national parks dismantled and dug up for oil; and a country that runs on fuel that is economically and ecologically unsustainable for our people, our planet, and our health.
The second path, however, is different. It is a path toward investment in renewable resources like solar, wind, and geothermal. It is a path down which we have invested not only in renewable energy infrastructure but in job training for a rapidly growing field, providing opportunities for working Americans to be part of a greener future. The path toward renewable energy, clean air, and sustainable living is here. We just need to have the courage to take it. We are long past the point where we can deny the existence of climate change and the harm that the oil, gas, and coal industries have already wrought on a global scale, especially and disproportionately impacting lower-income communities and communities of color. Fossil fuels have never been sustainable, and it is time for us to take a hard look at our nation, and fully acknowledge that the fossil fuel industries are directly responsible for health problems, climate change, and the economic decline of regions dependent on coal.
When we choose fossil fuels, as a collective we are being near-sighted and obtuse, led by business executives who are only looking for the next financial boost. But what if we all looked at the broader picture? When Trump announced his intention to withdraw the U.S. from participating in the Paris Climate Accord, states, cities, and thousands of business and university leaders stepped forward and pledged to continue fighting for the planet and to work with the rest of the world in a push toward global sustainability. On the local level, nonprofits and organizations have made the push to organize their communities against our dependence on fossil fuels, and their actions have precipitated local change. So have companies like Arcadia Power, who make it easy and affordable for anyone to power their homes directly from the wind grid, empowering renters to divest from fossil fuels. As a collective, we are working hard to become part of the solution, and It’s time that the nation stepped up and joined the fight on the federal level. The U.S. has taken small steps, but it’s nowhere near enough. As of 2016, only 10% of energy and electricity generated nationwide came from renewable sources. That pales in comparison to Costa Rica, who powered their entire country for a remarkable 300 days of 2017 using only renewable sources. Or Nicaragua, whose dedication to renewables has shifted their electricity to being over 50% sustainably sourced. As a collective nation, the U.S. has the power to do better. Much, much better. It can already be found in those parts of the country where divestment from fossil fuels has begun and the positive socioeconomic impacts have already rippled outward. Colorado is a state of innovation, as is shown by Solar Energy International, a Colorado-based nonprofit that works to retrain oil and gas workers in the solar sector. Its efforts can be seen across Colorado, a state with a booming economy and broad fields of solar and wind power peppering the landscape on rural drives. Another state that is surprisingly growing in renewable energy consumption is Texas, who now is 15% wind-driven. These states, as well as California, Washington, Oregon, and Vermont – to name just a few – are taking the initiative to make a change, and they have their booming economies to show for it.
If we take a close look at places where we depend almost exclusively on finite resources to give power to the people, we can see the dependence at the level of the infrastructure, and the subsequent lack of opportunity, clean air, health, and resources given to those communities. We can see the oil spills that impact low-income communities, most notably that of the Keystone XL Pipeline in November 2017, which spilled over 210,000 gallons of oil in South Dakota. It is clear that any further investments in destructive, finite resources lead to a nation of people dependent on a resource that no longer serves their needs. When we shift to renewable energy, we shift to the idea that Americans are worth investing in, worth fighting for, and worthy of clean air to breathe and a mother nature that our children’s children will live to bask in.
Again, we have two paths in front of us. It’s time we took the first step down the path toward a brighter, greener future.