With the election behind us, we here at NWEI are wondering what lies ahead in terms of the policies shaping or thwarting environmental protection. We found this article by Kieran Suckling, who shares five things the Obama Administration could focus on to move the United States forward. Read below for excerpts:

Few things distract our nation like the selection of its leader. But while we were obsessing over polls, swing states and Paul Ryan’s workout photos, the calculus that determines the future of life on Earth only got grimmer.

The climate crisis is deepening, rare plants and animals are vanishing at an accelerating clip, and politicians — well supported by the polluter class — are freshly emboldened to chip away at laws that protect our water, air, environment and wildlife…

Obama has a chance to salvage his legacy (and ours) in his second term. Here are the five places to start:

1. Address climate change and ocean acidification. There’s no crisis bigger than the one that’s rapidly transforming the world’s climate and oceans. We need to fix this, and fast. 2012 is on track to become the warmest year on record; some 40,000 temperature records have been shattered in the United States this year, while Arctic sea ice has melted to a record low…

2. Stem the extinction crisis. Plants and animals around the globe are going extinct at an astonishing rate, up to 10,000 times faster than normal in some cases. Unfortunately federal agencies in charge of saving endangered species have yet to respond on a scale that meets the speed and magnitude of this massive loss. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service need to work aggressively to protect the backlog of species that federal scientists say need protection denied to them so far…

3. Keep politics out of the Endangered Species Act and other vital environmental laws. If you’re glad that grizzly bears, wolves, bald eagles and peregrine falcons are still around, you can thank the Endangered Species Act. If you like breathing air and drinking water that won’t make you sick, you can thank the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act. These laws have built an enviable record of success over the past four decades — but there’s a growing movement in Congress to cripple them…

4. Safeguard our public lands, wild places and the Arctic. There are nearly 650 million acres of federal land in the United States — places like national parks, wildlife refuges and national forests. In the face of urban sprawl, habitat loss, population growth and a consumption-driven economy, these publicly owned lands are crucial refugia for wild animals and plants and are a life-sustaining resource for clean water, air and biodiversity. They’re also a target for profit-driven companies that want to mine, graze, log, bulldoze and drill them into oblivion…

5. Embrace a newer, cleaner energy. Fossil fuels are a huge part of what’s gotten us into this mess in the first place, whether it’s pollution from coal that’s altering our planet’s climate or spilled oil that badly damaged the Gulf of Mexico. It’s time to end our addiction to an antiquated system saddling us with staggering problems and heartaches for years to come. We need to end the billions of dollars of federal subsidies to these polluting industries, call off dangerous schemes like the Keystone XL pipeline, admit that natural gas is not a safe or renewable resource and say out loud, again and again, that clean coal is an oxymoron.

It’s time to reinvent our energy future by focusing on renewable sources of energy, including solar, geothermal and wind. Yes, these come with complications, and we’ve got to be smart about how we make the shift, but it can and must be done. There’s a smarter, saner way to move ahead, and that path is open to us. All we need now is the courage and political will to step onto it.

For the full article, click here.

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