Sunday, 8 February 2009

TIME FOR OPTIMISM?

I received a piece from Gary, at the Green Providers' Directory and thought I would post it here, as he suggested. Thanks Gary.

The prospects for the emergence of a genuinely sustainable global economy have been given fresh impetus with the election of Barack Obama, extending beyond the well intentioned rhetoric characteristic of new administrations. I think we can be optimistic for several reasons.

Firstly, it signals a radical departure from the previous administration’s policy of denial, apathy and denigration of science. Gone too is the unthinkable prospect of Sarah Palin presiding over US energy policy, whose ignorance on scientific and environmental matters are truly breathtaking.

Secondly, the Obama administration does not regard sustainable energy investment as ‘nice to have but not during a recession’. In particular, there is a stark recognition that a reversion to old coal mining technology and a reliance on foreign oil are not in the US’s long-term economic or international interests. Investment in sustainable projects is seen as a growth opportunity that will contribute to (i.e. not dilute) the US economy, creating new jobs and new technologies. For example, the Obama administration aims to create five million new jobs by strategically investing $150 billion over the next ten years to catalyse private efforts to build a clean energy future. It has also set a target of 10% of US electricity from renewable sources by 2012, and 25% by 2025.

Thirdly, US environmental and energy policies have ramifications far beyond its borders. The old adage that when the US sneezes the rest of the world catches a cold applies not just to financial markets, but also to the global environment. As the largest contributor to global emissions, its commitment to developing renewable energy sources, cutting back on fossil fuels (which should concurrently reduce its involvement in foreign conflicts) and investment in sustainable living will naturally have the largest impact whilst encouraging other nations to follow suit. More specifically, the new administration seeks eliminate its current imports from the Middle East and Venezuela within 10 years.

Of course the Obama administration will be criticised by both sides. The oil industry, loggers, car manufacturers, arms industry, et al will claim that his ambitions are unrealistic, and that they will cost jobs – they will use lobbying, corporate influence and every tactic available to undermine him (expect to see Bush’s involvement here too). On the other side, he will be condemned by the doom mongers as doing too little too late.

The transition from the world’s worst polluter to a leading, sustainable economy will not happen overnight. Old infrastructure, corporate inertia and scepticism, vested interests and general apathy will slow down progress. However, green campaigners, long frustrated by the Bush years, now have cause to be imbued with real optimism.

Dr Gary Robertshaw

The Green Providers Directory

The Green Providers Directory is the UK's leading resource for finding green, organic and fair trade products and services. We are a not-for-profit search directory whose aim is to encourage more people to buy from ethical and sustainable sources.

In my opinion what we now need from President Obama is for him to take up Roger D's idea of a vegetable garden at the White House, as a personal commitment to a truly sustainable future for us all.

2 comments:

chaiselongue said...

Thanks for passing this on, Kate. Obama's election does seem to be an optimistic development for the whole world. He won't be able to do everything and I expect we shall all criticise him at times, but at least the most powerful politician in the world is now someone who recognises that there are problems with the environment and wants to do something about them.

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