Speak Up For Nature: Your Guide to Environmental Issues in 2021
Follow this guide on conservation issues and act for your planet.
How to Use This Guide
The past year has been a difficult and humbling reminder that no matter where you live, your life is connected to the health of the natural world. When we degrade our planet, we make it more difficult for nature to provide the food, water and air we all rely on.
It doesn’t have to be this way. There are better, smarter paths rooted in science and in nature’s resilience. The more we speak up about these paths to our leaders, the more positive change we can make.
The first step is to start building your understanding of top environmental and conservation issues. No, you don’t need to be able to recite the Clean Water Act by heart.
Dig into the topics in this guide until you’re comfortable with them. Then, take one (or more) of these actions...
5 Things You Can Do
Talk About These Issues
Let your friends and family know what's important to you and why...maybe they'll join you in speaking up next time! Here's how to talk about climate change.
Contact Your Local Leaders
Local, state and federal, ask your elected leaders to support the things you care about. They are there to represent you, and they can't do it if you don't talk to them. Learn who's representing you in your state.
Weigh in on critical, timely issues. You can call the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121, or send messages on a range of issues through our Action Center.
Take Our Pledge
Your voice can make a difference. Every single action you take in your community can have a real impact on how we meet the needs of our Earth and everyone on it. Add your voice.
Share Your Thoughts
Use this guide to inform your social network and encourage them to speak up with us. There's power in numbers! You can start by sharing this message!
The science is clear: the more greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the warmer it gets. The warmer it gets, the higher our seas, the more intense our storms, the less ice in our Arctic and the more stresses on wildlife.
The good news? We know what we need to do.
It comes down to switching to cleaner energy like solar, protecting and restoring natural places that can store more carbon, updating our electric grid (which is older than the TV), and inventing the next great technology.
We put people on the moon. We made supercomputers that fit in your pocket. We are fully capable of doing all of these things.
We can do these things if we make it known that we believe in the promise of clean energy, not only to lessen the impacts of climate change but to support jobs and economic growth.
Want to Dig Deeper?
5 ways to tackle climate change
Smart climate policy: Reinventing how we generate, transport and use energy resources.
Senate Energy Bill: An important step toward a clean energy economy.
Choosing Clean Energy: New technologies, better choices and lower costs.
Natural Climate Solutions: Conservation, restoration and management of natural lands to reduce emissions.
Grid modernization: Improve reliability and efficiency of our power and reduce costs.
Answering your climate change questions
Climate Change FAQs: The best information at hand about climate change's challenges and solutions, from scientists at The Nature Conservancy.
Protecting Our Nation's Land & Water
Back in 1977, conservation and recreation made up 2.5% of the federal government's total budget. Today, it's less than 1%. This doesn't make any sense given that our need for healthy land, clean water and open spaces has dramatically increased as our population has grown.
We’ve had some policy wins (thank you, Great American Outdoors Act), but our usage demands of lands far outpace the resources coming into them. National and state parks alone host around 1 billion visits each year.
That's hikers, hunters and anglers, but also people going to weddings, reunions and summer camp. Throw in city parks with the baseball games and soccer tournaments and visitor numbers go through the roof.
Outside of being awe-inspiring, public lands clean our water and our air, and they protect us from coastal storms and heavy rains. They also have a massive positive impact on our economy. Outdoor recreation (often on public lands) generates $887 billion in annual consumer spending, directly supporting 7.6 million jobs.
It’s time to better care for the lands that care for us…but how?
There are plenty of ways to put money back into our lands and waters, if we make the right choices today. There's infrastructure investments that include wetlands and trees, not just levees and seawalls. There's tax reforms that incentivize private investment in restoring wetlands and forests or donating land for conservation. But, we need to let our elected officials know this is where we want our money to go.
Take action and speak up for our protecting our lands and waters today. If you're not in a state like Colorado, Ohio, Michigan or Texas, where they're are on the November ballot, follow our 5 Ways to Speak Up.
Want to dig deeper?
Explore 9 smart ways to fund conservation
Land and Water Conservation Fund: Standing up for America’s premier conservation program.
The Farm Bill: Largest source of federal funding for conservation on private land.
Tropical Forest Conservation Act: Protecting tropical forests and biodiversity.
Water management systems: Ensuring sustainable water supplies during drought.
Modernizing fishing data: Using technology to build sustainable fisheries.
Investments in nature: Supporting strong conservation funding and policies.
International conservation funding: Protecting natural resources abroad through U.S. programs.
Tax incentives: Reforming tax policy to incentivize investments in conservation.
Forest funding: Restoring and managing America’s forests.
Reduce Risks to Communities from Natural Disasters
For the past several years, we've seen more frequent, more intense natural disasters ravage communities across the globe. How many “once-in-a-lifetime” disasters must we encounter…in our lifetimes? And what can we do about it?
Because climate change has made these disasters more intense, we have to prevent the worst warming from happening. And, we have to better protect our communities. To do both of those things, we can turn to nature as a part of the solution. Yes, nature!
Healthy forests filter water and can reduce the risk of megafires. Sand dunes, marshes and reefs naturally protect our coasts from the storm surge that arrives with a hurricane. You might be thinking, I see forests and sand dunes all the time, don't we have enough?
One key word with forests is "healthy." We’ve suppressed natural fires in some forests, making them unhealthy tinderboxes. And while we may have some sandy coastlines, we’ve bulldozed our natural sand dunes and oyster reefs that were our first line of defense for our coasts.
Nature can bounce back if we give it the chance. Just like we must invest in bridges and roads, we must invest in restoring forests and sand dunes. Nature IS infrastructure. Nature IS investment. Nature IS a solution.
And the best part is while nature reduces risk for us, it also cleans our water and air, gives wildlife a home and gives us great parks to visit. We need to ensure consideration of nature and nature-based solutions in community infrastructure projects.
Take action and speak up for our natural infrastructure today. To get started, follow our 5 Ways to Speak Up.
Want to Dig Deeper?
Here are 5 ways to invest in nature around our communities
Transportation bill: Advancing nature-based solutions to infrastructure challenges
Natural infrastructure: Protecting communities from storms
Disaster relief funding: Increasing resilience when rebuilding after disasters
National Flood Insurance Program: Planning for floods to reduce risk
Water Resources Development Act: Managing waterways to benefit people and nature
Safeguarding Core Environmental Laws
Before Congress passed environmental laws in the 1960s and 1970s, our air was more polluted than ever and rivers had so many pollutants that they actually caught fire.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle decided that our health and the health of our natural places were basic values. They worked together to create laws like the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act and others.
Air and water in this country dramatically improved. Species came back from the brink. And generations of Americans have benefited.
Our country’s successful, bipartisan environmental laws are increasingly under attack. Many proposed changes to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and Clean Water Act have no basis in science and would erode the laws’ fundamental protections.
Take action and speak up for core environmental protections today. To get started, follow our 5 Ways to Speak Up.
Want to Dig Deeper?
Get up to speed on proposed changes to our environmental laws
Changes to NEPA: Several recently proposed changes would reduce NEPA’s safeguards, transparency and inclusiveness.
Changes to Clean Water Act: A recent action to redefine the “Waters of the United States” weakens the Act and is contradicted by science.
Foundational environmental laws: Protecting critical conservation policies that keep our water clean and our lands healthy.
Greater sage grouse: Actions to save an iconic Western bird would also reduce threats for people
Sign Our Pledge: Speak out against the new NEPA rule.
Advancing Clean Energy
Humanity has been burning fossil fuels (coal, petroleum and natural gas) at an accelerated rate for around 140 years. Scientists have known for many decades that these forms of energy emit greenhouse gases that are unnaturally warming the planet. In 2018, fossil fuels were responsible for 93% of human-caused carbon emissions in the U.S.
Transitioning to clean energies like wind and solar would make an enormous difference in helping the planet avoid the worst effects of climate change, such as extreme droughts, stronger storms and crippling coastal flooding. And yet, renewables make up less than 10% of the nation's energy mix.
Over the last decade, the cost of solar has dropped 92% and wind turbines by nearly 50%. In most parts of the U.S., new renewable energy costs less than coal. The time is right to make the switch.
To quicken and ease this transition, we need to make our power system more reliable by modernizing our century-old electric grid and advancing energy storage. And we need to put those turbines and panels in smart places. We don't need to knock down more forest and prairie; there's enough land already developed to meet our clean energy needs 17 times over.
The benefits of a clean energy shift go way beyond stopping climate change. The shift gives us cleaner air, more consumer choices and more jobs.
Take action and speak up for clean energy today. In some areas, like Columbus, OH, you can directly support clean energy on the November ballot. Otherwise, follow our 5 Ways to Speak Up.
Want to Dig Deeper?
Modernizing Our Electrical Grid
Our electric grid is the physical network that sends power to our homes and businesses by connecting them in real time to energy plants scattered around the country. This network, much of which is over 75 years old, wasn't built for the technologies our climate-threatened future depends on, like scattered wind turbines and rooftop solar panels.
It's also not efficient or reliable enough for our needs. It doesn’t take a natural disaster to shut the power off. Currently, something as small as a squirrel can cause an outage that ripples into a larger blackout.
Technological advances like the internet allow utilities and consumers to relay real time info about energy supply, demand and cost. This is a trove of useful information but its value is held back by infrastructure older than the television. We can build a modernized electrical grid that turns that information into smarter, more efficient choices that let cleaner energy sources shine.
Small changes to how and when we use energy can save us money and make a huge dent in the carbon emissions that cause climate change.
The U.S. Department of Energy estimates they need an additional $100 billion to fully modernize the grid. That's a lot of money, but those upgrades would save consumers $2 trillion over the next 20 years.
With the current grid causing economic losses of roughly $150 billion a year, there’s never been a better time to start. Let’s bring cutting-edge technology to the grid so it pollutes less, lowers costs for customers and creates jobs.
Take action and speak up for smarter energy today. To get started, follow our 5 Ways to Speak Up.