Sunday 21 December 2008

How about this for a Christmas present?!

I bought The Independent today because its front page sub-heading was:

'President-elect signals determination to fight recession with unprecendented eco-revolution'

Obama is putting together an administration that is overtly green. Amongst others he will make John Holdren his Energy Secretary and Jane Lubchenco his administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Professor Holdren is a nobel prize winning physicist and forceful advocate of carbon-free energy, while Professor Lubchenco is an oceanographer who specialises in the impact of global warming on the oceans. Is the USA becoming green?! It looks like there will be some action on Climate Change, only time will tell us what this action is, how deep Obama plans to go, how quickly a green-collar employment sector grows, what it will look like and how it will be funded.

From a British perspective, it would be interesting, right now, to ask Gordon Brown.... 'so Gordie what do you think about this new green administration of Obama's, are you going to follow suit, are you going to swap the purple tie for a green one?' I don't think the PM is a regular reader of this blog, but if I bump into him when I'm last minute Christmas shopping tomorrow I'll ask him and give him a copy of NEF's Green New Deal!

Since going out into the big bad real world, I have been amazed at the lack of funding available to help companies, schools, charities and so on develop environmental and sustainability policies. Schools, Charities and struggling businesses just can't afford an 'expert' to help them become green. Being 'green' is not as simple as it seems, it takes time, careful (and not always intuitive) planning, commitment, and a willingness to make sustainability a key principle underlying a companies operations and aspirations. The responsibility for doing something about 'the environment' usually falls to someone who shows an interest in it (someone who has watched An Inconvinient Truth and read a bit of George Monbiot). Given the low levels of Sustainability literacy that exist within the current workforce, it is not often that the someone has had an education that allows them to develop a well-thought out and approproiate response to the challenges. Often that someone has a passion (much needed) but no clear idea of what to do and how to do it! The result: poorly planned, marginal, low impact, conspicuosly green actions that might look the part but don't really cut the organic mustard. Every organisation is unique and must design and develop its response to sustainability based around this sort of question: what can we do to limit our environmental impact, and what can we do to help others limit thiers? Well informed, well intentioned and sustainably literate people need to brought in to help organisations, the problem is it is difficult to expect high calibre people to do this for free, they need to be funded. Either the government can fund this work, or the organisation can recognise the long term need for them to plan effectively now to ensure that their organisation actually has a future and invest appropriately.

It will be very interesting to see the reaction around the world to Obama's environmental intentions, and, in the longer term, his actions. Will people start thinking 'Well if the President of the USA thinks this is important, it must be bloody important!' and get on board? In Britain we have been pretty good at following America's lead over the last few years, the results have been pretty catastrophic. When I went to the launch of The Green New Deal, the Guardian journalist and green new deal contributor, Larry Elliot, said that the current economic crisis is a huge opportunity to instigate a progression to a greener society. Given the political and corporate will many jobs in the green sector can be created, the need is clear!