President Obama’s Inaugural address was full of promise for those of us working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions responsible for global climate change and put an end to mountaintop removal coal mining.
The president has long been a proponent of clean energy investment and the jobs it will bring to the United States, but for much of the last election comments on climate change were rare and uninspiring. Today we were treated to something a little more direct and powerful.
“We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms. The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries – we must claim its promise. That is how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure – our forests and waterways; our croplands and snowcapped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That’s what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.”
The mention of climate change brought an immediate cheer from the massive crowd. It has direct ties to issues of justice, equality, citizenry, and the economy–all appropriate themes for the president’s speech–and many of us clamored to raise it during the elections. It’s unlikely that Congress will take significant action on climate change in the next four years, but there are still strong actions the Administration can take to make significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. But these cannot be half-hearted motions to appease the “greens,” they must be swift and courageous.
The president made one comment that we have no intention of letting him forget. While emphasizing the inalienable right to equality and the need for equal opportunity under the law, he made the following statement:
“Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for, and cherished, and always safe from harm.”
Until the children of Appalachia are no longer subjected to the harm of pollution from mountaintop removal mines, coal ash ponds, processing plants, coal dust, slurry ponds and power plant emissions, this journey toward justice and equality will indeed be incomplete.
President Obama has both the opportunity and responsibility to make huge strides towards solving environmental and health issues in Appalachia. Appalachian Voices will do everything we can to make sure he does his job.