Now that this president has made his State of the Union address...

...let's come up with some advice for the next president.

It seems like everyone is passing the buck on climate change, these days. In his speech, President Bush spoke of future technologies, and called climate change a "serious problem". He isn't going to be in office too much longer, of course, and the next president will be faced with decisions concerning that serious problem. As the Presidential Climate Action Project put it:

Leading scientists estimate that the international community has approximately 10 years to make serious changes in its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions if we wish to avoid the worst consequences of global climate change. By the time the next President assumes office in January 2009, one-third of that decade will be gone.

At some point, the issue will land right in our laps. That is, we, the consumers, the bloggers, the surfers of the information superhighway, may ultimately be the ones who make a difference. Why wait? The questions are being handed down to us. A project at the University of Colorado at Denver is offering a unique opportunity for Colorado university and college students (like myself) to send an answer back up to the top of the chain. We've been asked to respond to the following question:


What would you ask the next President of the United States to do in the first 100 days of the Administration to address climate change?

The contest is part of a project titled "100 Days of Climate Action: A Leadership Plan for the Next President." The authors of the three best papers win a cash prize, and get to present their ideas at the Wirth Chair 10th Annual Sustainability Awards.

I think I may have a decent shot at writing one of the best papers... IF I have the right answer. Coincidentally, I've been working on a book titled Adapt, which, as the fish figure (below) suggests, concerns a necessary approach to sustainability. However, if the book turns out according to the outline, it would only partly address the question at hand. See this stipulation (emphasis mine) in the rules:

Responses are encouraged that outline the most effective, innovative, and realistic actions that will provide credible and substantive approaches to addressing climate change. Focus is encouraged on solutions rather than the imperative or rationale for action.

I'll be the first one to admit... a good chunk of my book will be "the imperative or rational", mostly discussing the origins of complex global problems and their solutions. The solutions themselves should be there, as well... but probably crammed into one of the final chapters, and then be fairly ambiguous. (Isn't that the way such books are supposed to be?)

i-7529dd78ab4b7db42082c1983c8f9e11-adaptontrees.jpgSo, this contest presents a unique opportunity for me, to distill those solutions into a five-page paper. Even better, I can distill it into a single idea: Launch a massive PR campaign to dispel myths about humanity's relationship with nature. We need to learn a nationwide lesson in cooperation--this is a not a zero-sum game, oil tycoons versus tree-huggers--we're all in this together. We need to open the channels for conversation; a grand discussion between political think tanks, energy corporations, manufacturers, scientists and individual citizens. (We already have the method for this, thanks to blogs, wikis, and the web itself.) The individual citizen should be informed about the practical choices or changes in habit they can make, which can lead to a better future for all of us. Sound a bit idealistic? Perhaps. But we have to start somewhere.

And we have. We're beginning to make choices and change our habits, and we're already having that conversation. Now, let's share some of these ideas and bits of that conversation with the next president. Perhaps we can show him (or her) the way to set an example for future sustainability.

This is where I'd like to turn the question over to you--everyone in the scientific or political blogosphere, their readers, and their reader's friends and neighbors. We're all in this together. So... how can we make a difference? Do you have any ideas or examples of ways to support sustainability? How will YOU adapt?

Some of my ideas include ad campaigns focusing on simple ideas which seem like common sense, but are often ignored: Humans (and their byproducts) are natural; change is natural. We need our natural resources, but we need to use them with the greatest efficiency possible. Individuals can make simple choices to reduce consumption. Their choices (an opinions) can be passed on to the producers, who can reduce packaging and dependency on plastics and fossil fuels, and still deliver a decent and profitable product.

I also think we need a catchy slogan, something that says "Adapt: Or Else" and "To Hell with NIMBY" and "Have a Nice Century", all rolled in something that's cute and catchy.

I'll be collecting ideas here until February 2nd, at which point I plan to start writing the paper for submissions. Please, pass the word along, and share your ideas here. Perhaps soon we'll be sharing them with the next president.

Seal via the Wirth Chair 100 Days Project; adapt image created by the author.

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...let's come up with some advice for the next president.

Here's my advice : "Don't run. It's such a mess, you don't want to be the one who has to deal with it."

Not real helpful, I guess. :/


Karmen wrote,
"We need to learn a nationwide lesson in cooperation--this is a not a zero-sum game, oil tycoons versus tree-huggers--we're all in this together. We need to open the channels for conversation; a grand discussion between political think tanks, energy corporations, manufacturers, scientists and individual citizens."

Great. This seems to be a start. Well put, Chaotic Utopia.

While it is literally true that we are all in this together, the oil tycoons and their friends believe they are not in it with us. They see times of crisis as times of profits.