Sunday, July 26, 2009

Reflecting on a Past soon to be our Future Again

Last summer seems so long ago now. It was a different world then. We were in the last few months of the outgoing Bush Administration, heavy into the Presidential campaign. Gas prices were still extremely high and there was a pervasive sense of urgency for change. It was especially so about energy use and moving as fast as possible towards energy independence and leaving behind a reliance on a fossil fuel based economy. Do you remember? How were you and your family behaving? We were kind of scared, spooked. We were all madly carpooling, riding bikes, looking seriously at buying hybrids and changing our daily behaviors in many other ways. Food costs were skyrocketing. Necessary staples like gallons of Milk and bread were at all time highs. Anything with corn as an essential ingredient was involved in the ethanol conversation and resource scarcity issues.

Reflect again. Now, a year later, we're in totally different place. Obama is our President. Global warming legislation passed in the House a few weeks ago and now moves to the Senate. Stimulus funding is making its way to States and local municipalities. (Who would have known a year ago any of this would be happening?) It's surreal. One thing which has changed though, is our collective sense of urgency has diminished. Gas prices at the pump have returned to pre-summer '08 costs. We're driving more, car pooling less. Prices in the supermarkets have lowered substantially. Houses are starting to sell again, albeit slowly. However, many of us are unemployed or underemployed. It's excruciating how much the economic meltdown has effected us all. Many of us are barely making ends meet. So many of the things we took for granted even last summer have all come into question. It's going to take a long while to dig out from this downturn and return back to some kind of normalcy. We are in a depression or at best an extremely deep recession.

I know it's not fun to reflect back to another time around 9/11 but remember the few days after the attack when the skies were quiet from commercial air traffic. It's was so quiet it was un-nerving. This not to subtle change in the sky signified a generational loss of innocence but I also feel that time of quiet serves clearly as a metaphor for me for how last year has been. So...

Reflect on your feelings from last summer. I bet you were behaving differently. Try to channel your memories from that time into sustained, substantive and positive action today. The time for change is as urgent as it ever was and the opportunity for change is the best it's been in a generation.

If you haven't done so already weatherize your home, your church, your business, your school. Until you weatherize your building, upgrade your insulation, service your heating and cooling systems stay away from sexy improvements such as solar panels or other advanced energy saving equipment. Change your light bulbs to compact fluorescents lighting (CFL's). Call your local congressperson, your mayor or electric utility and find out about weatherization programs, tax incentives, grants you can participate in to lower your energy bills this winter and create greater energy independence for you and your family for seasons to come. Re-examine your commuting habits, your consumption of consumer products and try your best to shift your behaviors on a personal, professional and community level. Take baby steps. Be brave and search for inner discipline to make the hard choices to change your habits. Don't be complacent and don't look back!

If you lost your job find out about green training and workforce training programs in your area. Take your existing skills and see how you can fit into the emerging green collar economy. Whether installing solar panels, weatherizing homes, replacing windows, teaching others new green skills, learning to build green, working to build the smart energy grid and local interfaces at the community level this is a time of unparalleled opportunity. Find manufacturers participating in the renewable energy economy and work for them. It is in all of our interests to do these things. Much of this will help power our new smarter more sustainable economy. For those of you in workplaces where change is needed, ask around, see if there is a sustainability or corporate responsibility committee taking every day necessary actions to make your business or organizations better stewards of the environment while also helping your bottom line.

You can't afford not to act. We must step up for the sake of the next generation to follow us and those after them.

No comments: