Investing in a Clean Energy Economy Today for a Healthier Tomorrow
You don’t know me but, right now, I am deeply affecting your future.
I am the CEO of a Fortune 250 company, NRG Energy, which generates enough electricity to keep the lights on for roughly 40 million Americans. That’s a lot and that’s a good thing. Indeed, all of us at NRG are very proud that what we do enables the interconnected lifestyles that define the human experience in the 21st century.
But we at NRG are concerned that the predominant fuels we and the other companies in our industry are using—and have used since the time of Thomas Edison—to keep you energized are ultimately exhaustible and, of even greater and more immediate concern, are having a damaging and potentially irrevocable impact on the world that you are in the process of inheriting from us and ultimately will bequeath to your own children.
A remarkable consensus of the world’s leading scientists and academic experts, some of which come from your own university, tell us that we need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent (from present levels) by 2050 in order to avoid potentially catastrophic harm to the Earth’s environment. In a growing world, that size reduction is breathtakingly difficult to accomplish. You can be assured that it won’t “just happen.”
Now I am pretty sure that you don’t spend much of your day worrying about the state of the environment 36 years from now and that is a good thing. If life has taught me one thing so far, it is that you should try to “live in the moment” to the fullest extent possible.
But spare one of those moments now to think about where you will be in 2050.
You will be in your mid-50s, which happens to be the age I am right now. While it may seem to you, at your age, like I am, at my age, ‘near dead,’ I naturally see my situation differently. Indeed, I feel like I am in the prime of my life with much to look forward to. You will feel the same in 2050. And I am pretty sure that the Earth you hope to inhabit then looks much like the remarkable, magical place it is now.
The irony is that an old guy like me thinks about 2050 every day. Perhaps even more worth considering is that every day decisions are being made by me and people like me that will deeply impact you in 2050. Decisions are being made to build multi-billion dollar power generation facilities and related infrastructure—some clean, some not so clean—that will still be fulfilling your energy needs in 2050 and, while you will certainly enjoy the fruits of our labor, you also will have to live with any negative side effects. We can invest now to mitigate against the future systemic risk of climate change or we can keep doing what we are doing and kick the can down the road to you.
See that’s the thing.
Whether it be carbon capture, distributed solar, smart thermostats or electric vehicles, the technology exists now to bring about a clean energy economy and a sustainable society. But it is always easier in an established society to perpetuate the status quo than it is to effect change. What we need is for you to demand control over your own energy choices so that you can make the choices that are right for you and your generation.
It should be clear to you by now that the political leaders of my generation will not act to protect your future interest, so you must. You are not powerless. You are trend setters, thought leaders, and, importantly for the purpose of this matter, end-use energy consumers. Our capitalist system, which will respond to the consumer demands of any significant portion of the public, is particularly responsive to the demands of your generation. You will be here, consuming, for a long time.
Your peers in other countries have used the tools and extraordinary interconnectivity of your generation to liberate entire nations from despotic governments, to bring to light corruption and injustice, to launch popular movements. And that is what we need now; a popular movement that is not destructive or nihilistic but constructive and highly focused on overcoming the transcendent challenge of climate change.
What has made America great has been that every generation of American leadership has risen to the defining challenge of its era. You are the next generation of American leadership. Climate change is your defining challenge. In the natural order of things, it would not yet be your time to lead. But the clock is ticking on climate and the world just can’t wait any longer. So you must act.
The time to begin is now.
President and CEO, NRG Energy
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By Kristen Fischer
It's going to be back-to-school time soon, but will children go into the classrooms?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) thinks so, but only as long as safety measures are in place.
Keeping Schools Safe<p>What will safer schools look like?</p><p>In a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2766822" target="_blank">JAMA article</a> published last month, <a href="https://www.jhsph.edu/faculty/directory/profile/1781/joshua-m-sharfstein" target="_blank">Dr. Joshua Sharfstein</a>, a pediatrician and professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, outlined suggestions — many of which are similar to AAP's.</p><p>Remote learning protocols must stay in place, especially as some schools stagger home and in-building learning. If another shutdown needs to occur, children will rely on distance learning completely, so it must be easy to switch to, he said.</p><p>He suggested giving parents a daily checklist to document their child's health. Kids should be screened quickly on arrival and be given hygiene supplies. Maintenance staff should use appropriate PPE and have regular cleaning schedules. A notification system should be in place if a case is identified, Sharfstein recommended.</p><p><a href="https://www.albany.edu/rockefeller/faculty/erika-martin" target="_blank">Erika Martin</a>, PhD, an associate professor of public administration and policy at University at Albany, said nutrition assistance and health services should be included. She called for tutoring programs with virtual options as well as technology access.</p>
Supporting Staff<p>Teachers and staff will be affected by safeguarding measures, noted <a href="https://directory.sph.umn.edu/bio/sph-a-z/rachel-widome" target="_blank">Rachel Widome</a>, PhD, an associate professor of epidemiology and community health at University of Minnesota.</p><p>"In order for all of the in-school precautions to work well, we'll be asking a lot of teachers and staff," Widome told Healthline. In addition to their usual workload, they'll now be asked to monitor mask-wearing, ensure children are keeping distance, and be aware of any symptoms.</p><p>Along with Sharfstein, Widome called for an increase in financial support. More employees will likely be required so teachers and staff members can keep up with the added demands.</p>
Should Kids Go Back?<p>While these guidelines may help get some schools to reopen, many people don't think children should go back to school over fears they could contract the disease and spread it to other vulnerable family members like grandparents, infant siblings, or their parents.</p><p>In a <a href="https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2020/07/08/peds.2020-004879" target="_blank">Pediatrics</a> commentary, <a href="https://www.md.com/doctor/william-raszka-md" target="_blank">Dr. William V. Raszka, Jr.</a>, an infectious disease specialist at The University of Vermont Medical Center, argued that schools should open because school-aged children are far less important drivers of COVID-19 than adults.</p><p>But he says the risk and benefit is not equal among all students ages 5 to 18.</p><p>"Elementary schools are arguably higher priority for face-to-face schooling, since younger children are at lower risk for infection and transmission, and since parental supervision of younger children's distance learning may be particularly challenging," added Sorensen, who penned a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/channels/health-forum/fullarticle/2767411" target="_blank">June article in JAMA</a> with reopening tips. "That means middle and high schools are more likely to emphasize distance learning."</p><p>Specific student populations, such as special education students and students with disabilities, would also benefit greatly from more time spent in face-to-face environments, Sorensen said.</p>
What Parents Can Do<p>Parents should ask for and receive frequent updates from schools about plans for the fall. They should also be informed about plans if and when COVID infections are identified, Sharfstein said.</p><p>"I'd like to see parents investing now, during the summer, in doing things that can slow and stop the spread of the virus in their communities," Widome said.</p><p>"Now is a good time for kids to practice wearing masks and get used to them as they may be wearing them for longer stretches if school starts up in person," Widome suggested.</p><p>She recommends parents try different mask designs and materials to see what children are more comfortable wearing.</p><p>"If you are using cloth face coverings, it's good to have extras on hand," Widome added.</p><p>Parents should model healthy behavior at home and while out in public — another thing that could affect how well children adapt to reopening practices, Sorensen said.</p><p>"Children may want to know more about face coverings," added <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/leescott/" target="_blank">Lee Scott</a>, chairwoman of the Educational Advisory Board at <a href="https://www.goddardschool.com/" target="_blank">The Goddard School</a>. "Dramatic play, such as creating or wearing a face covering, may help some children adjust to this concept." Schools can also show children photos of what faculty members look like in their masks so the students are familiar with that appearance.</p><p>Johns Hopkins University recently released its eSchool+ Initiative, a slew of resources surrounding education during the pandemic. These include a <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-checklist/" target="_blank">checklist for administrators</a>, report on <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/ethics-of-reopening/" target="_blank">ethical considerations</a>, and a tracker of <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-policy-tracker/" target="_blank">state and local reopening plans</a>.</p>
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By Eoin Higgins
Over 300 groups on Monday urged Senate leadership to reject a bill currently under consideration that would incentivize communities to sell off their public water supplies to private companies for pennies on the dollar.
<div id="fea63" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9a6f211c2bc5aedd34837944cb8eeedf"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1281000111481294849" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Water in Illinois is overwhelmingly public. Why is Tammy Duckworth sponsoring a bill that aims to change that? https://t.co/1V36Kkd99s</div> — The American Prospect (@The American Prospect)<a href="https://twitter.com/TheProspect/statuses/1281000111481294849">1594249201.0</a></blockquote></div>
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