"Time is Running Out" — Chilling and Insightful Comments from Retiring Legend Peter Goldmark

An excellent interview with Peter Goldmark, the director of the Environmental Defense Fund’s Climate and Air Program who recently announced that he’d be retiring at the end of the year, and reflections on that interview by Dominique Browning of EDF is one of the best articles I’ve read in awhile and is definitely worth a read.

Peter Goldmark was an amazing person who accomplished so much in his career and his remarks on the current state of the world, the future of the world, and the solutions to the problems we face are all-at-once chilling, insightful, and inspiring.

Here are some of my favorite parts of the piece.

“What we need more than anything else is a mass movement of young people,” Peter Goldmark, director of EDF’s Climate and Air Program, who recently announced his retirement at the end of the year. “In American culture, it is youth that sets the agenda. It’s always been this way. Think who was driving change in the anti-Vietnam war movement, in the civil rights era. They have to mobilize, now, and demand action against global warming.”

“My generation has failed,” he says flatly. “We are handing over the problem to our children. They—and their children—will live with the worst consequences of climate change. Make no mistake, global warming is happening right now. It is only going to get worse.”

In a 2003 paper, “Before the Storm,” he wrote: “We are, I believe, living in the time before a storm of historic proportions, a period of searing difficulty for the peoples of the world and the planet itself.”

Goldmark: A tough negotiator who draws inspiration from a Chinese poet.
But the world, Goldmark added, was failing that challenge: “We all—citizens, governments, and foundations—face in common the imperative to respond constructively to the crises of our times. And we are not responding. We are drifting.”

“When I think about how I would address a group of young people, my message is not a gentle one,” he says. “This is the hardest, most terrible, thing to say to a young person, but we have no choice: it is five minutes before midnight. Time is running out.”

The environmental movement must also do a better job of linking climate directly to shrinking harvests, falling water tables, receding glaciers, extended droughts and more violent storms. Already, food, water, and climate problems are simultaneously hitting many nations. It’s happening now, and we need to connect that to climate change in the minds of all people.

Environmentalists also need to reach small and medium size businesses with this message. We’ve done well in educating the GEs of the world, but we need to convey the urgency of climate change to the people who run or work at the smaller enterprises, because their numbers, and their voices, carry influence. That’s what made the Chamber of Commerce such a powerful voice against progress in the Senate debate on climate change.

“Young people are already transnational thinkers. This is one of the great gifts of the Internet culture. Fifteen to 35 year-olds are used to thinking globally. They are the ones who are going to insist that the United States get on board with international solutions.”

Goldmark… points out that countless polls show that Americans understand that climate change is a problem, and want it addressed. The problem is only that it is never high on anyone’s agenda.

“It has got to be said, over and over again,” Goldmark says, “this is an urgent situation. We must act.”

To check out the whole piece, Time is Running Out, which, again, is beautifully written and worth a full read, head on over to EDF.

And, as an action point, head on over and sign this EDF petition telling Senators to let the EPA do its job in implementing the Clean Air Act.

Photo Credit: Joost J. Bakker IJmuiden via flickr under a CC license

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