Our Urgent Opportunity: Fighting for a Sustainable, Just, and Prosperous Future

This is the text of a speech I delivered today at a rally in Portland, Oregon, highlighting today’s release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s synthesis report and to urge our elected officials – our U.S. Senators – to step it up and become leaders in the fight for a brighter tomorrow:

My name is Jesse Jenkins, and I’m a member of the Cascade Climate Network, the first-ever effort by youth in the Pacific Northwest to launch a coordinated, region-wide campaign to address the climate crisis. Students across Oregon and Washington are coming together to fight for climate solutions because we clearly understand that our futures are at stake.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report issued today sends a clear message to all who will head it: we stand at a key turning point in human history.

The decisions we make today, both as individuals, and collectively as a society, will have profound impacts not only on our lives and the lives of our children, but indeed for all future inhabitants of this planet.

The IPCC report paints a picture of the future that we should expect if we fail to solve the climate crisis we currently face.

It is a dark and downright frightening future indeed.

The report describes a future plagued by fire, flood and famine – stuff of biblical proportions. It describes a future where one of out every three species on this planet lies on the brink of extinction, a future where billions of humans lack adequate supplies of safe drinking water.

This is truly a nightmarish scenario.

Yet many of us today have a vision of another future.

You see, the climate crisis we currently face clearly presents a tremendous and pressing challenge. But we are also at a unique moment of urgent opportunity, a chance to build a brighter tomorrow.

We envision a future were we have broken our addiction to oil and shattered our dependence on dirty and depleting fossil fuels.

We envision a future with a vibrant and prosperous economy, recharged by investments in energy efficiency, and clean, homegrown renewable energy.

We envision a future where a new generation of Americans have found pathways into the middle class through good green collar jobs in an economy that is prosperous and sustainable, both ecologically and economically.

We envision a future where parents can watch their children grow and thrive in a healthy environment, free of asthma, toxic pollution and smog.

And we envision a just future where the burdens of our energy generation and use no longer fall on the poor or disadvantaged, at home or abroad, nor on future generations.

We can make this future a reality, if we act today to begin a rapid and equitable transition to clean, renewable and local energy sources. This is our urgent opportunity, one that we have the ingenuity, hope and determination to seize.

Many of us have begun to rise to the climate challenge and begin this transition to a sustainable energy future – in our cities, our communities of faith, on or campuses and in our homes.

That is why, today, we come here to call on our elected officials to join with us to be leaders in the fight for a brighter tomorrow. Today we call on Senator Wyden and Senator Smith to help us launch the institutional and policy changes that we have already begun to make, as individuals and communities.

I am 23 years old. In the year 2030, I will be 46. What that future will look like hinges upon our ability to rise to the climate challenge – to both avoid the nightmare future described by the IPCC and to seize the opportunity to forge a brighter future: a sustainable, just, and prosperous future for all.

That’s why I’m counting on Senators Smith and Wyden. Help us Senators. Help us to end the climate crisis today and make our vision of a brighter tomorrow a reality.

10 Responses to “Our Urgent Opportunity: Fighting for a Sustainable, Just, and Prosperous Future”

  1. 1 Pat Nov 17th, 2007 at 7:27 pm

    I completely agree with you that our future hinges on our ability to rise to the climage challenge. Congress currently has some opportunites to help reduce our impact on the environment in the energy bill. The bill calls for a fuel economy standard of 35 miles per gallon by the year 2020 and renewable electricity. Unfortunately lobbyists are trying to have these key provisions removed. I’m working with a group to try and stop this from happening, there is a petition here http://www.energybill2007.org for anyone who wants to sign or help spread the world.

  2. 2 Lacey Nov 17th, 2007 at 7:49 pm


    Your speech whole-heartedly embodies the purpose of the Cascade Climate Network. We are consciously acknowledging our involvement in our future; we are refusing to settle.

    Thank you for saying this today, and thank you for continuing to guide and inspire our group.

    May the nation and world follow.

    Lacey Riddle

  3. 3 Teryn Norris Nov 17th, 2007 at 10:03 pm

    Nice man!

  4. 4 Richard Graves Nov 18th, 2007 at 1:04 am


    This is so much like the “Choices” speech that I gave at our Minnesota College Energy Coalition rally in 2006. We really are on similar wavelengths. I gotta go out and visit you guys!

  5. 5 Carlos Rymer Nov 18th, 2007 at 10:21 am

    I love this Jesse! We’re really getting it! It’s no longer about what’s possible and what’s not. It’s about what we want the future to be. As humans, we can choose that. I really like your emphasis on visioning. I think it’s what we need to do as a movement. Awesome!

  6. 6 Elisa Otter Nov 18th, 2007 at 1:52 pm

    Right on Jessi,

    You painted the picture perfectly. It made me really proud to read this as a young person, because we are going to embody this change.


  7. 7 Zo Tobi Nov 19th, 2007 at 12:11 pm


    Your words make our resolve deeper, deeper, deeper.


  8. 8 Angeline Nov 19th, 2007 at 4:20 pm

    We at Our Task are right there with you! Thank you for your insights, your vision, and your encouragement!

  9. 9 Ben Hubbird Nov 19th, 2007 at 4:55 pm

    Jessie, you rule.

    Don’t forget Senators Cantwell and Murray (as well as Representatives Wu, Walden, Blumenauer, DeFazio, Hooley, Inslee, Larsen, Baird, Hastings (LOL), Rodgers, Dicks, McDermott, Reichert (LOL), and Smith)

  10. 10 Jesse Jenkins Nov 19th, 2007 at 5:23 pm

    Thanks Ben. This event was specifically aimed at Smith and Wyden. I certainly won’t forget the rest!


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About Jesse

Jesse Jenkins is an energy and climate policy analyst, advocate, and blogger. Jesse is the Director of Energy and Climate Policy at the Breakthrough Institute in Oakland, California, where he works to develop and advance new energy solutions to power America's future, secure our energy freedom, and halt global warming. He joined Breakthrough in June 2008 and previously directed the Breakthrough Generation fellowship program for young clean energy leaders. Jesse worked previously as a Research and Policy Associate at the Renewable Northwest Project in Portland, OR, helping to advance the development of the Pacific Northwest's abundant renewable energy potential. A prolific author and blogger on clean energy issues, Jesse is the founder and chief editor of WattHead - Energy News and Commentary, a featured writer and advisory board member at the Energy Collective, and a frequent contributor at Forbes.com, Huffington Post, and Grist.org.

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