Days before the 4th of July weekend, the Chicago Park District closed every one of the city’s lakefront beaches, due to concerns about water pollution. Heavy rains had overwhelmed the city’s combined sewer system, pushing billions of gallons of polluted...continued→
Peter Lehner, Executive Director, New York City
I am the Executive Director of NRDC. The position is my second at NRDC. Beginning in 1994, I led the Clean Water Program for five years, before leaving in 1999 to serve as the head of the Environmental Protection Bureau for the Attorney General of the State of New York.
My first experience with NRDC dates back to 1980, when I worked on environmental issues in Washington, DC. President Reagan had just been elected and environmentalists needed to strengthen their efforts. After law school, I worked for the New York City Law Department. NRDC was working hard to protect the city's drinking water supply, so I joined forces with NRDC and, on behalf of the city, sued polluters. I also joined with NRDC in suing President Reagan's Department of Transportation for rolling back fuel economy standards. This was the very first lawsuit brought on the grounds of global warming. I knew then that NRDC was thinking big, and committed to solving complex problems over the long haul.
Cases like this underscore why I became an environmental lawyer in the first place: if you are right on the law, you can make tremendous progress. NRDC has distinguished itself by a history of groundbreaking environmental work. Through our lawyers, lobbyists, scientists and media experts, we're able not only to find solutions, but to do the hard work of putting them into place. This is part of why NRDC is, in my opinion, the leading environmental organization in the nation. And it's why I'm honored to be back.
Before I gained any of this professional experience, my dedication to protecting the environment began as I suspect it does for many people -- by spending a lot of time in the outdoors. I spent most of my youth mucking around in the woods near where I grew up, and then as I grew older I spent a lot of time hiking and climbing and canoeing and kayaking. I still try to get out every weekend and, when I do, I'm reminded of how quickly the planet is changing, and how much it needs our protection.
Back in 1972, Congress passed the Clean Water Act with overwhelmingly bipartisan support in both houses. Even today, this bedrock environmental safeguard enjoys the continued support of Americans, in poll after poll, regardless of political persuasion. Yet some members of...continued→
I stepped off the train at Grand Central last Thursday, along with tens of thousands of other commuters, and ran right into a lavish display from Bayer, the giant chemical company. Part of the glitzy setup, which took up a...continued→
Neonics are particularly insidious pesticides, designed to seep through a plant from roots to pollen. They turn the whole plant into poison for any insect that nibbles on it—even helpful pollinators like bees. But the agriculture industry finds neonics cost-effective,...continued→
As much as I’m looking forward to the long July 4th weekend, there are some things about this season I don’t enjoy: the excessive heat, the smog, the bugs—and sometimes when you head to the beach to cool off, there’s...continued→
Prolonged drought is one of the hallmarks of a warming climate. Texas has been in the grips of widespread drought since late 2010; California, where my daughters used to live, is in its third year of drought, with 100 percent...continued→
World Cup fever is starting to take hold in the United States, grabbing public attention with the same urgency that it does in the rest of the world. It reminds me of another global event that’s also attained new levels...continued→
The Baker River in Patagonia, ice-blue and gentle as a summer breeze in some parts, raging white in others, is about as stunning and wild a place as you could ever hope to see on this earth. These glacial waters...continued→
Catastrophe. Massive difficulties. Nobody knows how to do it. Those were the protests of auto industry executives, arguing against catalytic converters, seatbelts and fuel efficiency standards. We will see shutdowns. Adverse effects on the national economy. The science is uncertain....continued→
Common-sense carbon pollution standards for power plants—like the proposed standards that President Obama will unveil next week--can protect our pocketbooks as well as our health, according to a new study. By fueling a surge in energy efficiency, standards that...continued→
Posted May 14, 2014 by Peter Lehner
Sometime in the mid-1990s, Will Harris looked around at the Georgia farm that had been in his family for more than a century, and decided he didn’t want to pass it on to his daughters. Not like this. His herd...continued→
Posted April 28, 2014 by Peter Lehner
What does climate change look like? Everyone has a different answer. To a Texas rancher, it’s the drought that’s starving his cattle. To a worried mother in New York City, it’s the stultifying heat wave that’s setting off her child’s...continued→
Americans consume more processed and packaged food than just about anyone else in the world. Processed foods, many of which contain added sugar, preservatives, and chemical additives, are hard-wired into our food system, and make up the majority of the...continued→
The latest report by the Nobel-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change sounds a piercing alarm about the dangers every nation faces from runaway climate change. Climate change, the IPCC scientists tell us, is already jeopardizing food supplies, water resources, even...continued→
Just last month, sitting in a small, low-lying fishing boat in pristine Laguna San Ignacio, Mexico, I came face-to-face with a 30-ton gray whale—one of the most magnificent creatures on Earth. These pristine waters, off the coast of Baja California,...continued→
Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.