When you hear or read a news story concerning climate change or any of the many other environmental issues it’s fairly common to be left with a feeling of "what in the world are we going to do?" Grand solutions are usually suggested, such as increased funding for research and development, to find that elusive silver bullet that magically solves the problem, or requests for another international summit that will in some remarkable way reach an agreement that all countries will miraculously carry out.

Not likely on both counts.

What doesn't usually make the news is this: we already have the solutions. Walking. Biking. Energy efficient appliances. CFLs and LEDs. Low-flow showerheads. Grass-fed beef. Vegetarianism. Home-grown and locally grown foods. Reduced waste/packaging/consumption. Recycling. Composting. Solar power. Wind power. Weatherized and insulated buildings. Green building. Better urban design. Sustainable landscaping. Sustainable farming. This is only a partial list of solutions proven to be successful with multiple layers of benefits. Individually they are no silver bullet, yet added up they are huge. 

Some of these solutions are easy and cheap. Some are challenging and "expensive". Yet the last time I checked, war was pretty challenging and expensive, but that never seems to stop us from jumping in to any fight. And war seldom has clear and sure benefits like the list above. Also keep in mind that what is “expensive” depends on who is doing the accounting. For example, if costs such as the impact on health, environmental degradation, and protecting long supply lines were included, most renewable energy sources would already be less expensive than fossil fuels.

The environmental issues in front of us need to be faced head on, and right now. Technologies will continue to improve, but we must do what we can with what we have, instead of waiting for something better to come along. Every day we wait just increases the challenge.

If our "leaders" in Washington lived up to their title they would be bravely leading us without hesitation on our environmental challenges. They simply are not. It's time we showed them how it’s done. If you look around your community, like I have mine, I'm sure you will find many individuals who already live inspiringly green lives. They are the leaders, we are the leaders, and we must all be more bold in spreading the positive word and influencing others, whether our neighbor or our president, preferably both.

It's not a hardship to go green--it's fulfilling. The environmentally-minded people in my community are some of the most creative, caring, and happy people I know. And this is the message that needs to get out. Most news stories and legislative proposals go on and on about the sacrifices that will have to be made to our "lifestyle" and our budgets. Don't buy it! Instead focus on the many benefits, the short- and especially long-term benefits to our finances, our level of contentment, our security, our environment, our future.

If we throw our hands up in frustration and say it's just too hard or it can't happen, that's a sure bet that it won't. But it can happen. The solutions already exist and are ready for us to put into widespread use. Challenges always present opportunities for growth, for individuals and entire cultures. The opportunities for growth and a better world are clearly present with our current environmental challenges. It would be wise of us to seize them.