Chesapeake: The Sierra Club Maryland Chapter Newsletter
Chapter Home
Newsletter Home
Past Issues

Letter of the Chair
click for print view

by Betsy Johnson | 2006

Conserving energy is a personal and political responsibility. While you're waiting for our leaders to catch up, devise your own conservation plan now.

In the January 29 edition of the Washington Post, the front-page article on climate change confirmed my suspicions that problems are accelerating. It seems that scientists are no longer arguing about whether climate change is real; they are arguing  about whether we’re already at the point where the warming trend is irreversible no matter what we do. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, 9 of the last 10 years were the hottest on record, with 2005 the warmest. The Earth’s average temperature has risen 1 degree Fahrenheit over the past 30 years – that’s a huge jump. And James E. Hansen, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies program, says that another 4 degree increase would “imply changes that constitute a different planet.” He also says that we need to act now if we are to have any hope of stopping the warming trend in time! Predictably, the Bush Administration is trying to shut this guy up. 

President Bush, in his State of the Union message, cited our “addiction to oil” as a problem and offered a few remedies like alternative fuels, renewable energy, and nuclear power. Somehow this doesn’t give me a warm feeling. Nowhere in his speech does Bush call for any changes in our individual lifestyles—which, let’s face it, are gobbling up fossil fuels like there’s no tomorrow. God forbid that anyone should suggest we sacrifice a few of our creature comforts in an effort to save the planet.

Where are the politicians like President Kennedy, who said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country”? I yearn to be thrilled by the clarion call, inspired by a vision of national commitment, challenged to change in ways that don’t have to do with tax cuts and personal savings. I want a “go to the moon” sort of goal to get us off the oil wagon.

So while we’re waiting . . . and waiting and waiting . . . for that kind of message from our so-called leaders, I challenge you to pony up some energy credits for the good of your country and the world. In an upcoming  issue of the newsletter, we’ll publish a one-time-only honor roll of energy conservationists. If you consider yourself a conservationist and believe that others could benefit from your good example, please prepare a list of the steps you’ve taken to reduce your consumption of fossil fuels.  Email it to  Include a picture of yourself, if you have one, and the town in which you live. If you don’t have email, drop it in the mail to Sierra Club Energy Savings Committee, 7338 Baltimore Avenue, Suite 101A, College Park, MD 20740-3211. Reminder: this will be a one-time-only honor roll, so act now to be included!  

I know a lot of you already are energy-conscious, but here are some easy energy-saving measures that you may not have thought of. Replace your light bulbs with compact fluorescents. Turn off lights and appliances when you leave a room. Hang up your clothes to dry rather than using a dryer (wooden racks work great and keep moisture in the air during the dry winter season). Drive less, and when you do have to go somewhere, try to carpool or take mass transit. Replace old appliances with energy-efficient ones. Turn your thermostat down in the winter and up in the summer. Eat low on the food chain (less meat). 

And, of course, we can pass legislation to deal with this problem. This year we have a great opportunity in Maryland to pass the Healthy Air Act—which, in addition to reducing emissions of three dangerous pollutants from power plants (sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxide and mercury), will require Maryland to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.   RGGI is a cooperative effort by Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states to reduce carbon dioxide emissions through a sophisticated cap and trade program; see page 6 for more on RGGI. I urge you to call your legislators and ask them to support HB 189 and SB 154.** Information on using the web to find and contact your legislators is on page 5.

Government actions can help, but we all need to work together to solve this problem. So thanks for your personal help in combating global warming.  

**Note that the Chapter has some concerns about the feature of RGGI that promotes renewable energy. The Chapter will exercise diligence to work for appropriate siting of renewable energy sources in locations that do not have a detrimental effect on wildlife and forested habitat in Maryland.

> 2006 Table of Contents


Up to Top