By Tom Steyer
Like all Americans, I care passionately about the American Dream — both the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” and also the opportunity for our country to fulfill its promise: to do what’s right (whatever it takes) and lead the world. That’s the spirit that drove us from Yorktown to Omaha Beach to Selma. At our best, no one and nothing can stop us.
I ended my professional investing career because it conflicted with my growing concerns about our global warming crisis, and as I’ve worked full-time for better energy policies over the last few years, the connections between climate and other challenges we face have become glaringly clear. As my wife Kat often points out, the problems in climate and energy cannot be separated from the issues impacting the rest of world.
As I’ve long believed and as President Obama stressed again in his State of the Union speech on Tuesday, the global warming crisis — writ large — will define the success or failure of our generation.
At its heart, climate change is a justice issue. Some fossil fuel corporations, and the financial interests linked to them, benefit from the activities that contribute to this urgent crisis for our planet — but they are not the ones who pay the price. The costs are born by all the people; the rewards meted out to the select few. It’s not fair. And it’s not just.
And this contrast between the few and the many persists in two other “justices”: economic and educational. Economic inequality is the arrow shot at the heart of our democracy. As this imbalance is growing, the concept that our democracy is created of the people, by the people and for the people is threatened. Similarly, we need to know that if we work — and study — hard, we can move up. That’s the American Dream — and it depends on a quality education. And that’s not a reality for everyone today.