I am happy to celebrate this 40th Earth Day at a rally in Chicago with Mayor Daley and the Chicago Climate Action Plan. It's a clear spring day here in the Windy City, and it's a thrill to help honor this special day with tens of thousands of fellow Illinoisans.
I don't know if people outside Illinois are aware that Chicago has one of the country’s most progressive local plans to slow or reverse climate change. As the Climate Task Force has said, "When it comes to greening a city, Mayor Daley sets a high bar for mayors and governors across the nation."
Now, Chicago has long been known as the City of Big Shoulders, and it's no surprise to me that it would take upon itself so enthusiastically the important work of sustainability.
So, thank you, Mayor Daley and the Chicago Climate Action Plan team for the great work you've been doing.
The rally at Daley Plaza was terrific. There were lots of booths where Chicago organizations and businesses displayed their climate change programs. A popular booth was "What's Your Climate Action?" where people shared their own personal steps to fight climate change.
I think my favorite part of the day was seeing the Earth Day Video Contest winners. The high school and college students who submitted videos for the contest obviously worked very hard on their projects, and the high level of competition was evident in the winning videos.
The winning entry in the high school competition was submitted by The Happiness Club, a group of kids from all over the Chicago area who encourage positive values and social change through original hip hop and pop music and dance. You can view their 90 seconds of high-energy music and dancing, "So Hot," below:
A special recognition award went to Hannah Park for the video, "90 Seconds of Simple Actions." It's a simple, but effective look at everyday steps we all can take. There's something infectious about Hannah's video; you can see for yourself below:
I was just a college student myself when the first Earth Day took place. I wasn't sure we could achieve the kind of progress against pollution that was necessary then. It's nice to take stock of the gains we’ve made in the past four decades. Our rivers are cleaner. Our air is cleaner. We can count acres of protected green space by the millions.
But, at the rally in Chicago I saw many of today's college students, and I recognize that they also may not be sure about our ability to achieve the kind of progress against climate change that is so necessary today.
We do have a lot of work ahead of us, and it's something we in the Obama Administration think about every day. Not just on Earth Day. Every day.
A lot of that work hinges on transportation. The transportation sector accounts for 1/3 of US greenhouse gas emissions, more than 1/2 of nitrogen oxide emissions, and almost 3/4 of our oil consumption.
So you can bet we’re hard at work on strategies to help people move from their homes to schools and jobs and other services with a smaller carbon footprint. You can bet we're trying to solve the problem of how to move goods from factory to doorstep as efficiently and sustainably as possible.
As the Chicago Climate Action Plan website says about transportation, "Chicagoans have many places to go, and they need a variety of convenient, energy-efficient ways to get there."
This DOT wants to make that happen. It's the right thing to do for the country; it's the right thing to do for the Earth.