This month two new tools have come forward from the expanding team of people working with and around me to engage solutions to the climate change challenge and the subversive threat embodied in endocrine disrupting chemical contaminants in our biosphere. We feel an increasing sense of urgency to make meaningful changes to address these serious global problems. Taken together, the problem appears overwhelming. A sense of powerlessness and being overwhelmed with the complexity of it all yields denial and paralysis.
But, we take courage from our heroes! In the new documentary “The Power of One Voice- A 50 Year Perspective on the Life of Rachel Carson” we see how her one voice raised fearlessly and courageously in spite of vicious, personal attacks, did change the world. We can see in “Sustainability Pioneers” regular people making changes in their own lives, in their communities and in their businesses to move to a more resilient future.
We have the tools to take action moving toward a more sustainable future. We must address the barriers entrenched in our current way of doing things. How can we connect the unionized labor movement to environmentally sound solutions? The labor movement was instrumental in organizing the first Earth Day and pressing for environmental protections in the 1970’s. Now, the divide artificially pitting a clean environment against jobs makes collaboration more difficult. Yet, the need has never been greater. Solutions that reshape a robust economy based on renewable energy systems, organic agriculture practices and green chemistry principles for producing goods, will require changing some laws! We need to have a broader coalition of people involved, and we need to reach beyond environmental advocates talking to each other with increasing passion and frustration.
Everybody wants healthy children. Everybody needs clean water and air. Everybody needs a wholesome, secure food supply. Every worker needs a living wage in a secure career path. To make a transition from a fossil based economy to a renewable and sustainable economy, we need a strategy and a plan for an orderly transition. Allowing the fate of our children to fall from “market forces” as a policy will not work. Our policy process is currently based on markets with government regulation seen as a negative interference. To make a successful transition, we must have a longer view than a three month business cycle; we must recognize the costs and risks the current practices are imposing on our current life and on the lives of our children and their grandchildren. We must make a strategic plan to reach a fossil-free future within the next 30 to 50 years, or our children will face life threatening conditions.
Business as usual scenarios based on continued fossil fuel use projected 650 parts per million levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. This is not a viable condition! Reaching this level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would be catastrophic for humans, and other creatures that breathe air. We need to get serious about choosing more viable options.
Jobs in the renewable energy industries are growing at 22% per year for the last five years, compared to a falling profile for coal, oil and gas jobs at 8.7% over the last five years. If we make a policy commitment to support and accelerate the penetration of renewable energy systems into the economy, instead of throwing up roadblocks and objections on all fronts, we could jump start a period of prosperity and sustainable enterprise that will lead the world.
Change the laws to stabilize the tax incentives and investment incentives for the renewable energy industry. No emerging industry will thrive in an uncertain regulatory environment, where the rules change each year and vary vastly from state to state! Shift the subsidies and tax advantages from fossil fuels to renewable systems to fund the emerging and growing technologies. We know climate change is caused by burning fossil fuels, so it makes no sense as a public policy in the public interest to continue providing $72 billion in subsidies for fossil fuel industries. Especially since much of that benefit accrues to multinational corporations who do not necessarily invest their earnings here.
The choices we have to make are not limited by technology. We have lots of technology to do many things from the simple to the extreme. The question is, just because we can, whether we should pursue extreme fossil development. We can make choices that have more favorable consequences for our life support system.
Look at your own energy supply this month. How can you reduce your own footprint, and shift your electric supplier to renewable fuels? Make a commitment to start now!