Today the UN Secretary General will be in Berlin to kick of the International Year of Biodiversity. Eight years ago in Johannesburg nations pledged to reduce the rate of extinction by 2010. Instead, the rate has reached around 1,000 times natural levels. As a result, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will also be marking our failure to reverse a trend which, if it continues, will sooner or later catch up to us.
Seven years ago next month I wrote an Op-ed explaining my reasons for becoming an environmental activist. Entitled Environmental Activism as Homeland Security: The Fallout Over Utah, I wrote not only of the development of my by then ongoing love affair with Utah's natural environment, but of nuclear testing's toll on the environment and people I had come to love and of the debate over shipments of radioactive waste into what was then Envirocare's facility in the West Desert. Re-reading my Op-ed of nearly seven years ago and reading of our failure to reduce biodiversity loss as promised eight years ago in South Africa, it is impossible to ignore how little the debate has shifted.
Today it is Energy Solutions, not Envirocare, and it is depleted uranium instead of lower level waste. While nuclear testing has not returned, there was a push for its resumption in response to the terror attacks of September 11, 2001 and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty still is not law. To this day America maintains more than 9,000 nuclear weapons ready to launch at the push of a button.
As climate change promises more severe droughts in the future throughout our region, Utah and Nevada stand poised to sign an agreement which ultimately would allow the aquifers beneath the Snake Valley to be sucked dry. Such a huge diversion of water threatens native plants and wildlife and would very likely spread dust clouds over the Wasatch Front the likes of which we have never seen.
It all sounds like a recipe for despair. Indeed, I readily admit to struggling to keep despair at bay myself. But I remain an activist because I have to believe we can change the course of history. We are not destined to foul our nest beyond habitability. A species that has found a way to destroy all life on earth must also be capable of finding the means to save it. We can find a way to live peacefully with each other as well as with the life we share this planet with. To deny this is to conclude our big brains fate us to destructiveness rather than compassion and this I simply cannot accept.
Which brings me to the Citizens Education Project (CEP) and why I have chosen to dedicate the next chapter of my life to this particular organization. CEP co-founders Steve Erickson and Rob Jensen and other CEP volunteers have already demonstrated what is possible with few resources and a lot of hard work. I can't help imagining what an organization dedicated to promoting real solutions can do with even more resources and commitment on the part of larger numbers of people.
In the days ahead, we will be asking people to join with us by making a small monthly donation to the CEP to help us achieve our goal of 1,000 donors giving an average of just $10 a month to the CEP by the end of this year. Others who deny the crisis we face in their annual conferences enjoy both corporate backing and the ears of many policy makers. Together, we can demonstrate the backing of people who care about the future of our communities, state, nation and world and are committed to solutions instead of denial can be even more powerful.
Thank you. I look forward to working with you in the months and years ahead.