This year, celebrate Earth Day in a way that matters

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For decades, America has been a world leader in science and research. Our innovative and pioneering spirit spurred the invention of flight, the harnessing of atomic energy, and took humans to the Moon for the first time in history. We have become the most powerful country in the world through our technological advancements and for a long time, it seemed that nothing would stop our scientific progress.

However, in recent years, we have turned our backs on science to tackle our greatest challenges. We have grown to see scientific reasoning that does not fit our worldview as unproven or unreliable. From vaccinations to genetically modified organisms, Americans have let their politics get in the way of sound science. But most the dangerous rejection has been that of sound of climate change.

Scientists have been telling us for decades that in order to avoid catastrophe, immediate steps must be taken to curtail the burning of fossil fuels. The research is sound and verifiable. But we have lost our faith in science and in doing so we have delayed critical action that should have been taken long ago. Instead of discussing solutions, we have let our politics paralyze us, wasting precious time.

We weren’t always this divided. America has a rich tradition of conservation. Members of all parts of the political spectrum have used science to create policies to protect our environment. Richard Nixon established the EPA and signed the original Clean Water and Air Acts. George H.W. Bush signed a cap-and-trade bill on sulfur emissions that protected us from acid rain. Ronald Reagan signed the Montreal Protocol that banned the chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) that were depleting the ozone layer, which has since regenerated. And Teddy Roosevelt set aside millions of acres of the most pristine and beautiful land in the world to be saved forever. Our leaders took bold action, not to endear their donors or for short-term economic gains, but because protecting the well-being of our environment is essential to the long-term welfare of our species.

This bold action is desperately needed now if we are to avoid the most destructive effects of climate change. However, such action will only happen if we as Americans value science and scientific research once again. We can give individual citizens energy independence while utilizing wind and solar power. We can introduce free market principles and competition to our energy sector and move away from a carbon-based economy.

So on this Earth Day, no matter your background or political affiliation, let’s remember that science is what made America great in the first place and that science does not push agenda but advocates for truth based on verifiable and testable data. Hold our leaders accountable to find a solution to the very real threat of climate change. Do not accept justifications of ignorance, lack of science knowledge, or citing flawed research. The stakes are just too high.

Do this because all Americans want and deserve a clean, sustainable, and abundant Earth, with parks to hike in, land to hunt on, and air and water that is free of chemicals that could harm us. The only way we will solve the challenge of climate change is through an America that values science once again.

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