I was born and raised in the tiny town of Searchlight, Nevada, where we were surrounded by one of nature’s masterpieces: the desert. It was there I learned of the tenuous connection between humankind and the environment. Clean water is a precious resource in the desert.

As a youngster, I learned to respect my surroundings. As an adult, my religion gave me a spiritual connection with nature. I learned of a divine mandate to care for creation and that there is a link between spiritual and habitat health. The importance of not sacrificing environmental health for temporal wealth is necessary.

No matter one’s faith, caring for our domain and its divine creation is essential.

Climate change is threatening the world, and we are already experiencing its disastrous effects. In the last year alone, we have encountered record wildfires, crippling drought and increased temperatures. Immediate action must be taken if we are to be successful in combating this crisis.

This concerns me greatly because of the current and future impact it will have on my family. It is a crisis that will be inherited by our children and grandchildren. If greenhouse gas emissions continue at their current rate, by the time my grandchildren are in their 40s, the earth’s atmospheric temperature will have increased by 3 degrees Fahrenheit. Intensified droughts, food shortages, poverty, wildfires, diminished coral reefs, increased human migration and rising sea levels will threaten our planet and way of life.

Climate change is not solely an increase in temperature. As the atmosphere warms and ice melts, temperatures will become more extreme. This means while some regions may be increasingly hot, others become unseasonably cold.

Just last week, Sydney, Australia, announced it would declare a climate emergency after facing inaction on the national level. Sydney’s Mayor Clover Moore said, “Cities need to show leadership, especially when you’re not getting that leadership from the national government.”

In the United States, we are facing a similar passive attitude toward climate change from our federal government. Still, you don’t need to be a world leader to make meaningful change on this front.

I have been inspired by the work of Greta Thunberg, who is only 16 years old, but has helped spark a worldwide environmental movement. For weeks, Greta missed school to sit on the steps of the Swedish Parliament and protest the legislature’s inaction.

Greta said, “Some people say that I should be in school instead. Some people say that I should study to become a climate scientist so that I can ‘solve the climate crisis.’ But the climate crisis has already been solved. We already have all the facts and solutions. All we have to do is to wake up and change.”

Climate change is not a hoax. Being aware of our energy usage, reducing waste and simply living more environmentally conscious can help solve this crisis for our children and posterity. Our connection with the environment should not be simply monetary. We should learn to respect our planet for the great gift that it is.

As Greta said, we all need to be involved in the change and solutions we so desperately need. As a country, we need to rid ourselves of the use of coal and wean ourselves off the use of fossil fuels. We must move to electricity provided by wind, sun, geothermal, and other renewable energy sources. We as a country must set the example for the world to have a clean, clean environment.

The very lives of our children and their children and their children depend on less dependence on the dirty and more dependence on the clean.

Harry Reid

Harry Reid is a former United States senator from Nevada, serving from 1987 to 2017. He led the Senate’s Democratic Caucus from 2005 to 2017 and was the Senate majority leader from 2007 to 2015.