Forty years ago, Congress acknowledged the decades of impact federal activities had on the environment and laws were established to foster and protect future generations. The Council on Environmental Quality was established as part of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969, and signed into law by President Nixon the following year. NEPA affirmed each person’s role in preserving the environment while emphasizing the leadership needed by the Federal Government. Yet our biggest challenge remains to solve the problem of continuing to power our global future without systematically destroying it through consumption.
Most recently at the 57th presidential inauguration, President Obama addressed the American public reminding us of his commitment to the environment and specifically the issue of climate change. Plagued by years of environmental bureaucracy and climate denial campaigns, climate change is no longer a controversial theory. In his second-term, the future of U.S. climate policy will be framed and become a critical part of our economic vitality.
In his inaugural speech, President Obama said, “The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition—we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries—we must claim its promise.”
Last week The Colbert Report, introduced a satirical view on global warming in “The New Abnormal”, stating there is no consensus on climate change as he focused on the absurdity of the problem. He documented the issue using media clips from FOX News featuring Donald Trump and CNN’s political contributor, Erick Erickson who said,
“What does it matter?” and continued, “The effects would take a hundred years to make a difference.” Erickson’s consensus, “It [climate change] seems like a problem we should just get used to… as opposed to something we can cure.”
Colbert closed the segment by stating, “The only thing worse than global warming itself might be knowing we are destroying the planet and doing nothing about it.”
In the past, fear has been the primary motivator for climate initiatives, yet it motivates only for a short interval of time. Research suggests that it does not evoke genuine engagement or action in the long term. According to environmental strategist Michael Shellenberger, new thinking is necessary to properly address global warming. In order to accelerate the changing of consumers’ behaviors and consumption habits, innovation is needed and also efficient and less costly alternatives. To get clean energy, we must use cleaner sources and support products and services that sustain both our consumption requirements and the environment.
The framework must be about economic development in a ‘clean way’ while promoting environmental stewardship to engage behavior change and commit to it. Through large scale events such as the 34th America’s Cup in San Francisco operating under the Port’s new ‘zero waste event policy’ and the Super Bowl XLVII ‘Geaux Green’ game are positive ways to increase public awareness. Brands and agencies must collaborate to create ways of incentivizing through competitions, grant opportunities and awards that spur awareness while also engaging the behavior. Communities must pledge to make a change and become the stewards of their environment for future generations.
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