To be a Texan is to be an environmentalist – The Dallas Morning News

Growing up in Texas, some of my richest memories include camping with my dad. Between hiking in the woods, fishing in the lakes, and watching the stars at night, I developed a strong pride for this state and all it has to offer. It’s a pride embedded in every Texan’s DNA. We’re a vast and unique land with nearly every kind of natural environment imaginable. More broadly, we lead the country on so many things, from commerce and politics to culture and energy.

While our history is steeped in identity as the oil and gas capital of the United States, our future is quickly becoming guided by a leadership role in clean energy and conservation. This is something we should highlight regularly, but especially on a day like Earth Day, when we celebrate our planet and reaffirm our commitment to protecting it.

We are facing some serious environmental challenges, many of which feel so monumental and divisive it can be hard to see a path toward solutions. What should give us hope, however, is remembering that all environmental challenges are local challenges. If we all stewarded our communities the best we can, we’d all be a lot better off.

This isn’t to say we can solve climate change all by ourselves here in Texas, but I am suggesting that we have a pivotal role to play. From the Llano Estacado to the Gulf Coast, opportunities exist for Texas to remain a national — even a global — leader in conservation, energy production and clean technology innovation.

As a recent example, Gov. Greg Abbott called on the state Legislature to expand our Texas State Park system earlier this year, stating: “Yes, we want Texas to prosper. But we can do that while at the very same time conserving the beautiful parks that we have and adding to them to make Texas even more appealing to future generations.” Abbott recognizes the importance of promoting both economic and environmental success.

While expanding our parks system may do little in the larger mission to lower global carbon emissions, the underlying philosophy of balancing economic prosperity with environmental protection is exactly the approach we should be embracing.

Texas is an economic powerhouse, attracting all types of companies to establish and expand their operations here. In the clean energy space, we already lead the nation in wind energy, and we’re also establishing ourselves as a leader in the solar sector as well. As for traditional energy, carbon capture and storage companies have chosen to set up shop in the state. In fact the world’s largest carbon capture plant is currently being built in the Houston area. While there’s room to put more of an emphasis on highly effective solutions such as nuclear energy, we’ve become the poster child for an effective all-of-the-above energy approach.

To be a Texan is to be proud of our state’s environmental and energy accomplishments. To be a Texan is to recognize the wealth of natural resources with which our state has been endowed. To be a Texan is to be an environmentalist and put the health of our natural spaces first.

Today, I still value the time I spend outdoors with my family and dog, Hudson, and my career path led me to one of the fastest-growing youth environmental nonprofits in the country. My passion for our natural environment and the work my team and I do each and every day to protect are built upon my upbringing in the great state of Texas.

Stephen Perkins is the vice president of grassroots strategy at the American Conservation Coalition. Follow him on Twitter @Stephen_Perkins. He wrote this column for The Dallas Morning News.

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