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  • Getting to Green

    An administrator pushes, on a shoestring budget, to move his university and the world toward a more sustainable equilibrium.

Folly at the highest levels
July 31, 2011 - 4:00pm

We've all heard the explanations -- the excuses -- about why humans (particularly legislators, especially legislators not operating in any sort of a parliamentary system) aren't emotionally equipped to deal with problems like climate change. It's intangible. It's invisible. It's slow. It's not immediate. It's not linear. It's not intuitive. It cuts against the cultural grain.

And those of us who are working, in large part, to get society (or at least the educated portion of it) to recognize and address these problems have long acknowledged the difficulties inherent in "get[ting] a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it."

But the current debt ceiling crisis in Congress beggars belief. Here is a problem which is tangible, visible, rapidly approaching, immediate, simple to understand, intuitive, and deeply embedded in our national culture on a number of levels. And our national legislators can't deal with it. At all.

Will the USA, perhaps, once again have a national government that works? It's certainly possible.

Will the USA have a national government that works even on counter-intuitive problems in the necessary time frame to deal with them? It seems highly unlikely. In fact, in the short-to-medium term, I'd bet on a national legislature less responsive to public will and expectations and needs, not more. (Which is why the prospect of any meaningful third party constitutes a bright shiny object, whatever the particulars).

For practical purposes, though, it's just more proof that our global problems of environmental, social and economic sustainability will not be solved at the national scale -- at least, not in this large and diverse country. One more reason to embrace, and implement, and teach, regionalism.


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