The inaugural speech was full of faith in our future, and a call to address issues of climate change, women’s rights and gun control. While this may seem self-evident to many of our European cousins, American pundits still consider this to be leaning “far left.” There is still debate in American politics about the science of climate change. Take, for example, the chair of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology – a body with jurisdiction over many laboratories, NASA, the National Science Foundation, and the National Weather Service. The current chair, as well as previous chair, hail from the great oil republic of Texas, and are vocal in their doubts about the role of humans in climate change. And thanks to the “Citizens United” ruling, which effectively opened up the election to legalized bribery as corporations could freely donate to political candidates, these congressmen enjoyed the hearty endorsement and deep pockets of the oil industry.
President Obama did temper the vote of confidence in our future with a reminder that individual freedoms are not self-executing, and are based on collective actions. He called on the people to respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that to not do so would betray the responsibility to future generations. While I have grave doubts over the political will of Congress to endorse this change, I look instead to leaders among the states and municipalities. For example, in this same election, California passed two Propositions that close tax loopholes, and has designated that the recovered revenue will be spend on clean energy and energy efficiency projects in public buildings. Earlier this month, the governor proposed a plan to funnel some of the funds to energy efficiency projects for schools. Individual states, such as Vermont, have created a culture of builders that challenge each other on best practice in energy efficiency. Even towns, such as Austin, somehow manage to push through strong energy efficiency mandates for city buildings, despite the political climate of the state politicos.
The moral of this story? While the circus master may not be able to convince some of the more stubborn elephants to move very fast, it might be more efficient to support the activities of the smaller, more nimble political animals to get this show on the road.