A message from Dr. Stephen A. Smith, Executive Director of Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, on the defining fork in the road we are facing, and why we're being called to unite in action and purpose as the "Clean Energy Generation."Stephen Smith | February 10, 2023
Over the course of history, most generations are known for something that took place during their lifetime. On rare occasions, some generations have been summoned to a greater challenge that defined their moment in history, either through a significant struggle and/or being called to come together with the courage to change the course of history for the better.
As history has documented, the advancement of freedom with the American and French revolutions and the struggles of civil rights are examples of historic generational actions. During WWII, the generation that played a role by planting Victory gardens, working on the factory lines, or serving overseas on the front lines became what history refers to now as the Greatest Generation because of the sacrifices made and successes earned in the shared battle to defeat fascist nationalism.
We are being called to unite and rise to meet another critically decisive generational moment now.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that our generation will define the fate of humanity and the multitude of other species we share planet Earth with. Since the start of the industrial revolution, an ever-increasing amount of carbon dioxide and other climate-forcing gases have been released into our atmosphere. The emission rate accelerated significantly in the 1950s and has been largely unabated ever since. The concentration of climate-forcing chemicals now exceeds levels ever previously experienced by human civilization.
Our path as the “Clean Energy Generation”
Our generation stands at a defining fork in the road forward. One path leads to a parade of destruction and planetary diminishment. This path is rampant with extreme weather, including uncontrollable wildfires, massive flooding, prolonged droughts, warming and rising seas, and the loss of critical habitat all accelerating species extinction.
The preferred path is what we are calling the “Clean Energy Generation.” It’s our generational challenge to confront climate disruption together, coming together to respond to the greatest challenge of our time. As members of the Clean Energy Generation, we acknowledge the moment we are in by choosing action over despair. Our Clean Energy Generation embraces both the challenges and opportunities of our time.
This preferred path is forged through collective action and leads to addressing the dangerous emissions while welcoming newer technologies that provide superior services without releasing harmful pollution that exacerbates climate change. We produce electricity with clean, affordable energy and power our homes, transportation, businesses, and industries with carbon-free energy. Our actions, small and large, reduce and avoid carbon emissions through personal and shared choices. We live in smarter-powered cities, and we have the support of leaders who think about and value our shared future. The consideration of future generations is front and center in our present-day decisions.
That’s the future we’re working toward. Do we have political consensus on climate today? No, not yet. Have we set into motion the largest U.S. federal government investment in climate action and clean technology in our nation’s history? Yes, and it’s rolling out now.
Are our utilities leading on carbon-free technology? Not really, but there’s a realistic path for them to get there with planning.
Do we see the deployment of clean energy generation technologies accelerating? Yes, and with broad participation from the Clean Energy Generation, we will see changes happening in bigger and faster increments, including here in the Southeast.
What does it look like if we succeed?
What does our future look like as our Clean Energy Generation succeeds? The vision of our daily lives, our towns, and our children’s future is bright — for all of us, not just those with incomes that can afford it. Think of waking up in a comfortable energy-efficient home, powered by renewable energy. Your home works with your utility provider, in a two-way communication system that both draws and provides affordable, clean power as you need it through solar on your roof and storage batteries located in your house and your electric car or truck. Your appliances, lights, and heating and air conditioning systems are smart, sensing activity and providing services when you need them, all saving you even more time and money. In partnership with utilities, these technologies and systems are made available for all customers.
Your children ride a clean electric school bus, no longer inhaling the diesel fumes that have been proven to harm their lungs and overall health. If you own a car you have no need to go to a gas station; your car has charged overnight at a fraction of the cost of what you used to pay for gas and your electric vehicle is quiet, smooth, and responsive. You save additional time and money since your vehicle requires much less maintenance, with no oil to change, or oil dripping in the driveway or garage running off into our streams and rivers. If you don’t own a car, you have access to clean electric public transportation where and when you need it.
Our air is cleaner, our homes and businesses are healthier and more comfortable, and our economy is vibrant with good-paying clean energy jobs in our communities.
By committing to be an active part of the Clean Energy Generation, you become a local and regional light of action. A passionate voice of positive change that joins the millions of others around the world committed to overcoming the fossilized thinking that has kept us on the path of destruction and climatic disruption. We are the Clean Energy Generation of people committed to unleashing the multitude of Clean Energy Generation technologies and choices that transform the way we produce and consume energy today for a better tomorrow.
Join the “Clean Energy Generation” Momentum
We’re on the cusp of gaining momentum as the Clean Energy Generation. Nearly half of Americans say the area where they live has experienced more extreme weather-related events in recent years, and 71% want their representative in Congress to support efforts to fight climate change, not oppose them, regardless of their political party.
We have to hold the reality that things are getting worse and things are getting better at the same time. The devastating impacts and signs of climate change are clearly pointing in the wrong direction. But simultaneously, more humans are waking up to this reality, and more clean technologies are being brought to scale to provide viable solutions that also improve our quality of life. It’s not all sacrifice.
Yes, there are people trying to deceive us that the circumstances are not real, or that would rather bury us in the paralysis of despair. But we can’t get stuck there when there’s a very tangible and viable path of hope.
We hope you’ll join us as we illuminate that path of hope.
Over the next weeks and months, we’ll be sharing stories of people and places that are creating change, some in seemingly small ways and others on a larger scale. We’ll share the progress we’re seeing right here in our region, and how you can get involved regardless of your income, age, abilities, or zip code. We’ll ask you to share your stories of why and how you’re contributing to the Clean Energy Generation, and we’ll celebrate our successes together as we move toward the healthier, more sustainable future that we envision, and that our children and their children deserve.