Will the New U.S. Administration Make Sustainability a Theme?


The president-elect made hope and change key planks in his platform. Since past U.S. presidencies have failed to recognize sustainability as being of key importance to our future, let alone made it a consideration in the setting of policy, will this change in the new administration? There is certainly no single topic that is more important in the intermediate and long term pictures, and we need to be both planning and acting today to ensure the most comfortable glidepath possible through the coming period of population boom-and-bust as well as energy shortages and pollution problems. Does the new administration recognize our current and future issues, and will they take action to create and act on the kind of plans we will need to avoid major economic upheavals in the coming decades?It isn’t clear yet that the Obama administration “gets it”. While it is easy to see that the new president has many immediate issues to be dealt with, to optimize our future those issues should all be considered in the light of the need for future sustainability.  It would be easy for the overwhelming volume of serious issues and problems to keep the new administration buried in short term concerns, and result in a continuation of past government patterns of only haphazard recognition of our long term issues.  The key for us is to communicate with them, however.

Sustainability must become an underlying theme of all policy decisions. From the jails overcrowded with people forced into unproductivity (mostly based on our archaic and arbitrary drug prohibition) to the extremely wasteful energy habits of the military, and from the laissez faire attitude towards energy corporations and credit markets to the terrible shortcomings and inequities of our health care system, our government (supported by too many poorly educated and uninformed in our electorate) has created a real mess that does little to address our deeper and longer term issues.  It is up to us to educate ourselves, apparently, and tell our government representatives what their priorities should be.

Global warming has at least raised some people’s consciousnesses. While it is clear that global warming has become a volatile political football, and rational discourse has been greatly reduced by the hyperbolic statements of both proponents and deniers, it has made many people aware that there are environmental problems we will not be able to avoid, and which we should be addressing.  Unfortunately the political furor around the topic has distracted people from the simple facts that we are in a population explosion such as the world has never before seen, and that our expanding numbers are going to inevitably cause us to run out of cheap energy supplies and run into increasingly serious environmental problems and food shortages.  The voice of reason is rising in volume, however, around the world, and more and more governments are starting to pay attention.

We must act to fix the system, as it is clear that it won’t fix itself. Governments have the greatest power to make headway in the pursuit of sustainability, and they need us to set their priorities.  Our government representatives need to hear from us, individually and in groups, on a regular basis.  It is up to us to understand what is going on, figure out what policy priorities should be, and tell our officials what we want.  Every congressperson has an email address, a mailbox, and a telephone.  There are many organizations already involved in condensing the wishes of their members into a stream of petitions to appropriate government officials.  We each need to be involved, and joining such organizations can be a very effective and efficient way to contribute your ideas, speech, and votes to move our world in a sustainable direction.   I encourage you to help make sustainability in the guise of population explosion, energy shortages, and pollution problems (including global warming) an underlying platform on which government policy will be based going forward, in the United States or wherever you may live.  The sad fact is that the system isn’t going to fix itself, and it is up to us to make sure civilization moves towards a sustainable future for our children, grandchildren and descendants.

As always, I welcome your comments.  – Tim

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2 responses to “Will the New U.S. Administration Make Sustainability a Theme?

  1. Although I think the new administration will look at sustainability and green initiatives more favorably then the Bush administration, I don’t think it will make sustainability a theme. Although Obama is better then Bush, his administration is still tied very closely with big business and corporate greed. However, anything is better then Bush and a step in a more sustainable direction.

  2. Excellent points, Tim. The current dialog focuses too much on…

    1. Restoring economic growth (economic growth is not sustainable on a finite planet, and will guarantee we don’t reduce CO2)

    2. Eliminating dependence on foreign oil (let’s take the word “foreign” out of that phrase)

    3. Creating jobs (let’s face it, every job created is a CO2 emitter; we need to shift from polluting jobs to clean jobs, but the fact we must work so hard to create jobs is a sign that population growth is killing our planet)

    Dave Gardner
    Producer/Director
    Hooked on Growth: Our Misguided Quest for Prosperity
    Join the cause at http://www.growthbusters.com
    See our new Population Solution PSA

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