Growing up in Appalachia, our backyard trash incinerators went along with clear mountain mornings, and our tobacco-based economy with the sparkling streams. On my horse, I traveled eroded (illegal!) logging trails, steep cattle-stripped pastures, and mucky cattle-stomped crossings. And honestly: it was all beautiful to me. I didn’t learn to see our ways of living on the land as “environmental crisis” until later. It’s hard, seeing yourself and your communities through that lens. What I’ve learned, living and working in places from Alaska to Maine to New York City, is that it’s possible to feel deep responsibility without becoming overwhelmed, or paralyzed by guilt, even for something as serious as environmental damage. That’s because responsibility and empowerment are two sides of the same coin, the coin of civic engagement. In my view, nothing embodies this better than the environmental policy and law that democracies — ours, and others — have committed themselves to over time. Civic engagement takes knowledge — of our ourselves and our neighbors, of the land and the law. That’s why I do the work I do.