As I finish my journey with the National Wildlife Federation, I felt it fitting to be a guest of Climate Reality Mexico & LATAM. With 22 million people in Mexico City running out of water, climate change is not some distant threat but a current reality.

When I came back to NWF in 2004, it was with an explicit commitment to work with others advocating for carbon pollution laws big enough to protect wildlife and our children’s future.

I knew it would be an enormous undertaking with little time to waste.

I was naive enough to believe that the captains of industry would at some point comprehend the ominous consequences of climate change that will befall rich and poor children alike and would therefore stop resisting and put their efforts into solving the problem as we have so often in the past with many other environmental threats.

I was wrong.

Fossil-fuel interests have been throwing their moral compass aside and putting their full weight into blocking progress by deliberately creating doubt and confusion. At the same time, they continue to turn the heat up on a pot that is already boiling over with more and more dirty tar sands and enormous coal exports to China.

As hard as it would be under normal circumstances to constrain carbon pollution, I was stunned when the U.S. Supreme Court turned “corporations” into “people” and “money” into “free speech”. Knowing full well that they created a playing field that was tilted heavily in the direction of powerful interests–the more money, the more “free” speech.

Nor did I know that many state legislatures and Governors would put their thumb on the scale with various voter suppression tricks and sophisticated data-base gerrymandering. All of this puts democracy at risk and undermines efforts to stop climate change.

After ten years of fighting for comprehensive legislation, I have failed in my goal.

However, I am reminded that losers are not people who fail but people who quit. I am not quitting. I will not stop until we have a climate policy that is of the scale big enough to end carbon pollution.

All is not lost. Children restore my hope. After my talk in Mexico City, a sweet young girl came up to me with a very serious look on her face and asked, “What are we going to do with the people who don’t care?” My response, “Honey, that is a great question but our future will not be up to those who don’t care but up to those of us who do care.”

Her question reminded me of what Margaret Mead once wrote, “A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” The voters are beginning to wake up and my hope remains undaunted.

Together, we can win this. We must.


About Larry Schweiger

Larry Schweiger is the Past President and Chief Executive Officer of Citizens for PennFuture. Previously, he was President and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation and earlier the CEO of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. Larry also served as the Executive Secretary of the Joint (House and Senate) Air and Water Pollution Control and Conservation Committee of the Pennsylvania General Assembly and 1st Vice President of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. He returned to the National Wildlife Federation in March 2004 with a commitment to confront the climate crisis. He is passionate about protecting nature for our children's future. Larry continues the climate work as the battle moves to the states. Previously, Larry served for eight years as President and CEO of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, where he pioneered watershed restoration and promoted ecological research, land conservation, community outreach and Fallingwater restoration. In the past, Larry was the Executive Secretary of the Joint House/Senate Conservation Committee for the Pennsylvania General Assembly, Senior Vice President for Conservation Programs at National Wildlife Federation, and 1st Vice President of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. Larry wrote a book warning about climate change impacts on nature entitled: "Last Chance: Preserving Life on Earth" that won 1st Prize for the best non-fiction at the 2011 Indie Book Awards. Larry started volunteering at age 14 and is an active community leader, having served on more than 40 governing boards, commissions and committees. He currently serves on the Boards of Directors of Climate Reality; the John Heinz Center for Science, Economics and the Environment; and National Wildlife Federation Action Fund. In 2012, He was honored by the Blue-Green Alliance for the Federation's leadership on the auto rules and was selected as Pennsylvania’s Environmental Professional of the Year in 2002, Pittsburgh of the Year in 2000, and he received a Conservation Service Award from the Christian Environmental Association in September 1995. Larry is married and is blessed with three daughters, two sons-in-law, and five grandsons.
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