Now is the time for Green leadership
by Jason A. Safford
Gauging public reaction to the decision by President Trump to pull the United States out of the Paris Climate Accord – one thing is more apparent – the subject of climate change is front and center and more relevant than ever before. While nations may continue to disagree about any number of economic, political and social concerns, there is little debate about the existence of climate change among international leadership, otherwise, Dinosaurs would still rule the planet. President Trump claims his decision is based on economic data, however, the Paris Climate Accord is one agreement based on science. In fact, in pulling out of the accord, the United States makes a backward move, joining only two other countries: Syria and Nicaragua. With the rest of the world on board, President Trump has ceded an opportunity for the United States to continue to be a world leader. Such was the determination of French President Emmanuel Macron, who reacted to President Trump by stating, “Make our planet great again.”
What the Paris Accord established was the beginning a formal peace process with our planet. The long-term commitment aims to limit global emissions in order to prevent rising temperatures from causing irreversible damage to current ecosystems. The agreement is to come into full force over a number of years and includes concessions for developing countries. While the agreement recognizes that there are some economic costs to changing current infrastructure to support green energy, the main point is that we all live on this planet together. Failure to work together to ensure the viability of Earth for future generations makes economic gain all for naught. This is the critical concept missed by the President of the United States. Claiming that the agreement was unfair to the U.S. businesses and set unreachable goals, there was no visionary understanding of how that specific document allowed all of the world leaders of this planet to agree on something together in unison. As the “leader of the free world”, rescinding our position from such an aspirational goal was to retreat from a victory for the planet and the people who live on it.
Deconstructing the reason why President Trump made his decision is to further miss the opportunity created by such a dissonant tone – changing the course of human history is now more than ever in the hands of the people. Our fate depends on our ability to seek out better, greener leadership that recognizes the critical relationship we must have with our planet. How we go forward from here as suggested by Michael Bloomberg, is from “the bottom up.” This is a directive to the people – it is time to step up and lead. Many are doing so. Examples of this can be found in the recent resignations of Elon Musk and Bob Iger from the President’s advisory team. Each left, “as a matter of principle” in protest of the withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement. These leaders and others have stood their ground and many city and state leaders have followed suit. From New York to Hawaii, mayors, governors and business leaders – in breaking with the President on this matter – can move forward to lead the way to a greener future.
Understanding what Green leadership offers is now the pertinent matter. While the concepts of sustainability and environmental responsibility are inherent to this discussion, what has been misunderstood for too long is the greater purpose of impact, value and passion that are the driving forces of Green leaders. All leaders have a desire to do great things and accomplish feats of unfathomable proportion – but Green leaders are driven by a greater sense of purpose – they direct their energy, power and love towards a vision that understands more fully the impact of their decisions on the world around them. Green leaders are focused on self-actualizing their greatest self for the most valuable impression on the people and planet they serve.
Actions that consider the role of the decision with greater context to the bottom line of the planet, its people and individual profit are immediate steps. Going solar or using wind energy, private citizens and businesses large and small reduce carbon emissions and fossil fuel consumption. Europe has demonstrated this is a valuable and attractive direction for power consumption that is profitable as well as sustainable. Growing numbers of businesses and people committing to green energy has caused dramatic reductions in the cost of development, making it more affordable and profitable for our planet long-term. Storage materials, production processes and supply chains for product distribution are further challenges to improve upon for a greater valuable and positive impression on the planet and people. As an industry, Green is capable of creating far more jobs in manufacturing, production, distribution and retail that provide for a stronger more robust global economy.
One of the great Green leaders of modern history, U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt, stated “We have become great because of the lavish use of our resources. But the time has come to inquire seriously what will happen when our forests are gone, when the coal, the iron, the oil, and the gas are exhausted, when the soils have still further impoverished and washed into the streams, polluting the rivers, denuding the fields and obstructing navigation.” Such forward thinking insight more than one hundred years ago that considered the future health and sustainability of the natural resources of this nation is still challenged today as evidence by the current U.S. President who does not take such a stance – yet the global community is more aligned with Roosevelt. World leaders are in agreement that science has borne out Roosevelt’s predictions. The climate is changing, polar caps are melting, animals are going extinct and supplies of fossil fuels are dwindling. However, instead of moving away from its use, this administration seems determined to double down on drilling and mining.
Green leaders need to take action now. The Paris Climate Accord challenged us to ask such questions as – how can we protect the health and welfare of all humans before it is too late? It will take many smaller actors in the United States banding together in the way the Paris Climate Accord once bound us to other world leaders in order to change the current trajectory. Bold, decisive action that commits our direction towards more valuable impacts with our planet, our people and our way of life is what is needed. There is abundant technology and available ingenuity available to create an awesome future now, there is no reason for leaders to be shy or timid any longer.
What makes a Green leader? Accepting the responsibility of their impact to the world around them, which is much more than glory or profit, it is understanding how impact and value change people’s direction. These leaders appreciate that “out of sight, out of mind” is a dangerous outlook for our planet. Infrastructure in America currently includes hidden waste problems, fossil-fuels readily available at every corner, electricity humming 24-hours-a-day and mega-stores stocked floor-to-ceiling with products made with poor labor conditions and inferior materials. Recognizing that such addiction to convenience can make it easier to ignore the signals of climate change, which are happening in far flung places such as the poles, however, more intense storms, changing temperatures and flooding are also happening right on America’s doorstep.
Now is the time for Green leadership to recognize that we must look past our current challenges to influence a future that will restrict continuing damage from climate change. President Trump has pulled out of the Paris Climate Agreement, but the world continues to reach out to Americans and we, in the United States, must continue to extend ourselves for our planets health. Improving our quality of life requires all of us to work together and create a future that impacts our planet in a more valuable fashion. Only then can we secure a stronger foundation of leadership from the bottom up, which guarantees the sustainable life of human beings for generations to come.