Open Letter to U.S. Senators and Representatives


Janisse Ray is a writer and naturalist born in Baxley, Georgia, who has graciously agreed to write for our blog. Her book, Ecology of a Cracker Childhood, recounts growing up in a junkyard, the daughter of a poor, white, fundamentalist family, and her latest book, Pinhook, Finding Wholeness in a Fragmented Land, tells the story of the land that connects the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia and Osceola National Forest in Florida.

Open Letter to U.S. Senators and Representatives
by Janisse Ray

Carbon emissions have already increased global temperatures by over 1 degree Fahrenheit. We are seeing dramatic results.

Our planet, due to rising levels of atmospheric CO2, methane, and other greenhouse gases, is experiencing:

  • thawing permafrost
  • melting glaciers
  • melting sea ice
  • rising sea levels
  • an increase in hurricane intensity
  • shifts in drought and rainfall
  • changes in migration patterns of insects and animals.

With no action to cut greenhouse gases,

  • the planet will get another 4-6 degrees warmer within 50 years.
  • temperature rise will transform the physical geography of the planet and the way we live.
  • floods, disease, storms and water shortages will become more frequent. A quarter of terrestrial species are at risk of extinction from climate change.
  • the poorest countries will suffer earliest and most.

Climate disruption seems like a vast, unmanageable problem to which there are no easy answers. But there are solutions. And you, in your unique position in government, can surge to the forefront on this urgent issue.

Here are some necessary actions:

  1. Bring manufacturing back to the United States, so that we can quit using fossil fuels to transport to and from manufacturing nations like China (and so that we can again be self-reliant.)
  2. Set a target for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions based on the latest science.
  3. Use that target to set an annual carbon cap. With that, set a personal carbon ration, a free annual quote of carbon dioxide for every person, to be spent on gas and electricity, train and plane tickets. In place by January 2009.
  4. Set building regulations that impose energy-efficiency requirements on refurbishments and new dwellings.
  5. Set minimum standards for efficiency for appliances.
  6. Ban the sale of wasteful and unnecessary technologies such as incandescent light bulbs, patio heaters, garden floodlights.
  7. Redeploy money earmarked for new nuclear missiles towards a massive investment in low-carbon and high-efficiency technologies.
  8. Invest in our rail system.
  9. 9. Abandon ALL road-building and road-widening projects, and spend the money on reversing climate change.
  10. Institute a fee on utility bills (the more you use, the higher the fee) to pay for research in alternative energy generation and distribution.
  11. Freeze new airport construction. Set a national quota for landing spots.
  12. Pass legislation prohibiting out-of-town superstores.
  13. Lobby for the U.S. to sign the Kyoto protocol. The U.S. emits nearly 25 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases, yet refuses to do anything about global warming.
  14. Push for the Kyoto agreements to extend beyond 2012.
  15. Ban the construction of new coal-fired power plants in the U.S.
  16. Set emission limits on vehicles made and sold in the United States.

As I write this, in January 2007 there has been NO SIGNIFICANT SNOWFALL in southern Vermont. Unthinkable. This holiday season, Duluth, Minnesota registered its first completely brown Christmas ““ not a trace of snow — since 1875. “Without radical measures to reduce carbon emissions within the next 10 to 15 years,” Tony Blair said recently, “there is compelling evidence to suggest we might lose the chance to control temperature rises.”

The future of civilization depends on our quick response to climate disruption. We’re looking to you to lead us out of it.

Janisse Ray

(For more information, read Field Notes from a Catastrophe by Elizabeth Kolbert and The Guardian, October 31, 2006.)

Note to Student Conservationists:

StepItUp07 is a movement to bring attention to the perils of global climate change. On April 14, 2007 rallies will be held all over the country. All of them will have a single message: Step It Up, Congress! Enact immediate cuts in carbon emissions, and pledge an 80% reduction by 2050.

Would you organize one in your community or on your campus? Please email [email protected], and say “˜here’s where I live””I want to help organize.’

Events may be demonstrations, public dialogues, showings of An Inconvenient Truth, teach-ins, walks, or whatever other creative, fun idea you have.

StepItUp will assist you with banners, press releases, and talking points, and will connect you with others in your area who are eager to help. We can make April 14, 2007 a day that will be remembered as the one in which we the people demanded immediate action to end global climate disruption and were heard.

Please join us.
Janisse Ray & Bill McKibben