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My Window Seat To America The Threatened

An airplane passes over Desolation Canyon, UT.

An airplane passes over Desolation Canyon, UT. High about this great nation, you can see the struggles we face.

Photo courtesy of Ecoflight

“If you want to see the places we’ve helped protect, ask for a window seat.”

So reads my favorite Earthjustice message, decorating airports across the country. It’s true: 35,000 feet is a great vantage to see the forests, mountains and river canyons that are intact, unroaded and resilient thanks to our legal work with many allies.

But on a recent flight, I also saw a different, far more disturbing picture: the ravages of fossil fuel extraction and burning. I took off from San Francisco bound for D.C. As we climbed over California, one of my favorite sights, the majestic Sierra Nevada mountains, was obscured by thick smoke—the result of massive fires brought on by drought and rising temperatures, increasingly common as fossil-fueled global warming settles in.

Farther east, over Utah, I saw a growing spider web of fracking drill pads, roads and wastewater pits. In the country’s midsection, I followed a procession of coal-burning power plants that line the Tennessee and Ohio River valleys, painting the landscape with plumes of air pollution visible for a hundred miles or more. And the southwest approach to Washington’s Dulles airport served up a panoramic view of mountaintop removal mining that has laid waste to the undulating Appalachians on a massive scale.

Across our entire organization, we are fighting tooth and nail against all of this devastation. The window seat view on my recent flight reinforced for me how intertwined these fights have become. Our struggle with the fossil fuel industry means we are cleaning our air and creating healthier communities, we are protecting wild places and the web of life, and we are slowing the pace of climate change and accelerating the transition to clean energy. We can’t succeed in any of these efforts in isolation from the others.

The next time you find yourself in a window seat, take a look around and appreciate the wild places that your support of Earthjustice has helped protect. And when you see the devastating impact of fossil fuel development, be reminded of how Earthjustice is fighting for you—and our entire planet—right now.