John Oppermann

John Oppermann

Expectations for global environmental summits between world governments are low, to say the least.

For many years, few have expected anything groundbreaking to come out of global environmental talks and most people are really just hoping to avoid backsliding from commitments that were made in the past. 

Because people are so checked out of the official process, people have turned their attention to all of the projects being undertaken at lower levels by individuals, NGOs, large and small businesses, community groups, local governments, and state governments. While we wait for those at the highest levels of government to take action on climate change and other environmental issues, individuals and groups of all sizes are taking action on their own. 

For many, the biggest takeaway lesson from recent global climate negotiations is that you do not have to wait for others to act because you can take positive steps in the right direction on your own or in concert with the millions of people and organizations who are also forging a positive path toward sustainability. The real value of some of these global environmental conferences therefore may be the connections formed between people from around the world working on their own projects and the lessons people can draw from one another’s experiences.

Earth Day presents a similar opportunity as it’s the perfect gateway into the environmental movement. Like the global environmental conferences, it provides a time and place for people who are enthusiastic to make a difference to learn from one another and start moving forward together. People are eager to meld their values with every aspect of their lives, from their careers to their consumer habits. For that reason, Earth Day New York aims to connect people to the thousands of groups doing important environmental work. We, like many others, think that you can make every day Earth Day through thousands of small (and sometimes large) actions. 

We still need national governments to act on climate change and other environmental challenges. We will not reach real and lasting solutions until that happens. But let’s not wait around for governments to act. Let’s embrace the thousands of habits and actions which work to incorporate our values into our daily lives. Little by little, let’s lead by example.

- John Oppermann, Executive Director of Earth Day New York