Guest Commentary: For future generations, invest in the planet now


Kate Williams is the CEO of 1% for the Planet. Kathleen Rogers is the president of EARTHDAY.ORG.

“Our world needs climate action on all fronts — everything, everywhere, all at once,” Secretary-General António Guterres said as he introduced the latest report by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The report, called a “survival guide for humanity” by Guterres, documents the 1.1 degrees Celsius rise in global temperatures since the start of the industrial age and warns that global warming could top threshold levels of 1.5 degrees Celsius in the next decade.

It does not mince words. The panel’s report spells out actions governments and policymakers need to take now to prevent the most catastrophic impacts of our climate emergency.

But what about the rest of us? What can individuals and businesses do? And how do we judge our governments’ investments?

As two women who lead global environmental organizations, mobilizing “everyone, everywhere, all at once” is what we do. 1% for the Planet helps businesses around the globe contribute at least 1% of their annual revenue to environmental causes, facilitating more than $450 million in funding to environmental organizations since its launch in 2002 by Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia, and Craig Mathews of Blue Ribbon Flies. EARTHDAY.ORG is a year-round policy and activist organization in more than 190 countries that galvanizes over 1 billion people to action every Earth Day. This year’s Earth Day theme is “Invest in Our Planet.”

So how to invest in our planet?

From our vantage point, it is critical — and doable — to take collective action now and invest in our planet and our future. If you are rationally optimistic about human ingenuity, you may believe that climate change could provide the best opportunity in human history to reinvent everything and to create prosperity and equality for all.

Not sure where to start? Here are ways to invest in the future of our planet:

  • Support smart green government investments in infrastructure, jobs and communities. The U.S. government is investing and lending close to a trillion dollars in everything from roads and bridges to green technology to renewable energy to batteries. But more investment needs to be made in public transportation, in community design that will benefit climate-disadvantaged communities and in creating a steady pipeline of green jobs for their constituents that will last until the next century.
  • Support companies that are innovating and inventing solutions to climate crises and other environmental and social issues. And demand that companies be transparent and report on their progress.
  • Support climate literacy in our K-12 schools, universities, trade schools and graduate schools. Science, entrepreneurism and innovation should be at the heart of climate education and coupled with strong civic education. It will prepare our graduates for green jobs, create a strong, more equitable green consumer market and allow them to engage with government and society in a meaningful way to address the climate crisis.
  • Use your voice and your vote to demand a better future. Local elected officials will respond to letters, phone calls and visits. Speak up at your next town hall meeting and make your vote count for the planet.
  • Invest smarter. We all can put our money to work in banks and investments that fund positive outcomes instead of systems that — literally — fuel growing emissions. By switching to responsible and sustainable banks and financial institutions, consumers can put their money to work for the environment and align it with sustainable values.
  • Spend smarter for the Earth. As consumers, we need to demand real action from both business and government. From our food to our clothes to our homes, each spending decision we make sends a clear message to business. Your dollars have power, and businesses act when consumers do.
  • Support equity and climate justice. The climate crisis impacts everyone differently, and marginalized communities are hit the hardest by environmental consequences. Without this understanding, climate action falls short.

With these collective actions, we can change course and secure a future that is not clouded by uncertainty, devastation and winners and losers. No government, person, corporation can do it alone, but together, we can build a healthy prosperous future for everyone.

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