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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.

Free beer!
November 4, 2009 - 12:36am

Well, maybe not free beer where you are right now, but I do promise free beer to anyone who shows up at Greenback and asks to collect.

More to the point, "free beer!" is a phrase that's proven effective on campus for getting people's attention. What I'd like to draw your attention to is the single best reframing of an issue in the WBGU report. (This is the last post on that report, I promise. But it's in many ways the most important, so read on. And let me know if you get thirsty.)

What the report's authors have done, in an information-dense 7.5 pages, is to describe a transition plan for decoupling developed and developing economies around the world from fossil fuel while stimulating economic growth (even by traditional measures). Rebirthing economies is what all of us in the sustainability business (in higher ed or elsewhere) should be talking about at every opportunity. Rebirthing/decoupling the economy is a major step towards solving a whole raft of problems, so there's something here for everybody. It's win, win, win (unless, perhaps, you're a senior executive of an oil or coal company).

Want to . . .

Shrink the size of the Federal government? Decouple the economy from fossil fuels.

Balance the national budget? Decouple the economy from fossil fuels.

Pay down the national debt? Decouple the economy.

Restore our balance of trade? Decouple the economy.

Reduce our risk of terrorism? Decouple the economy.

Stop sending troops into harm's way? Decouple the economy.

Bring peace to the Middle East? Decouple the economy.

Create more high-tech jobs at home? Decouple the economy.

More manufacturing jobs? More skilled service jobs? Decouple the economy.

Bolster the strength of the US dollar? Decouple.

Reduce air pollution? Decouple.

Protect clean water? Decouple.

Rehabilitate our blighted cities? Decouple.

Revitalize family farming? Decouple.

Build better suburbs? Decouple.

Stimulate research funding for higher ed? Decouple.

Reduce emissions of greenhouse gases? (Thought we weren't going to get there, didn't you?) Decouple.

Look, it might not be a necessary step on the road to curing cancer (although you never know), but I can make a decent logical case that decoupling the economy from dependence on fossil fuels is a key step toward achieving any of the above list of goals. And, without backing off on the climate change debate at all, we need to be talking about all (or at least many) of these goals. To all of our students, regardless of academic discipline. And to anyone else who will listen.

By broadening the discussion from just climate change (which sounds kind of techno-nerdy and so is readily deflected in political conversations), we can recruit fiscal conservatives, economic developers, community advocates, pragmatists, "realists", America Firsters, pretty much anybody and everybody to the side of the angels.

And given the tepid leadership coming out of the nation's capitol, our better angels can use all the allies we can recruit for them.

Want to trigger a rebound in the stock-market? Decouple the economy from fossil fuels.


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