– Michael Brune is Executive Director of the Sierra Club, the largest grassroots environmental organization in the United States and author of Coming Clean: Breaking America’s Addiction to Oil and Coal. –
This year marks the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, and people are looking back at an amazing 40 years of environmental successes. Americans have come together in their neighborhoods, cities, states and nationally to demand cleaner air and water – and they have been successful.
This should serve as an inspiration for the current and future work to help our planet and the challenges we face along the way. While our rivers were at one time catching fire, it is now our rapidly warming planet we turn the focus to.
Our country is chained to outdated, dirty energy sources such as coal and oil, which are in turn causing global warming. Burning coal for power creates 30 percent of our country’s global warming pollution – not to mention the health impacts it has on people and our land and water.
Pollution from coal plants adds $62 billion a year to health care costs, according to the National Academy of Sciences. Research from the American Lung Association shows that coal pollution causes more than 12,000 hospitalizations, 38,000 heart attacks and 24,000 deaths each year.