It’s a huge, even monumental task, but we have to think big, even grandiose, if we are to avoid the “four horsemen” of apocalyptic climate change: global inequality, ecosystem depletion, “constrained depression” (low demand and high debt), and “resilience deficit” (i.e., our existing water, power, and transportation systems can’t handle coming climate disruption). David Roberts in Grist summarizes a very important article in Foreign Policy by Patrick Doherty, called “A New U.S. Grand Strategy,” that insists the U.S. can solve the monumental problems of climate change by designing our major systems–economic, industrial, civic, and political–around sustainability. As Doherty says, it’s more than a matter of lowering carbon emissions; we need a “global transition to sustainability,” and the U.S. can and must begin the transition. As Bill McKibben says, “Between renewable energy and more efficient engineering, the technology already exists to stave off catastrophic global warming.” Doherty outlines the bigger picture, a strategy to create “a larger industrial, economic, civic, and political system that is designed around sustainability,” where sustainability is not just an add-on.
Roberts’ summary highlights the main features of an America leading the way globally, but first domestically, by creating walkable communities, shifting to sustainable agriculture and economics, and engaging in multilateral diplomacy.
- Walkable communities: More and more Americans want to live in dense, walkable areas; get rid of regulations that hamper them and start building them.
- Regenerative agriculture: Farmers can produce “up to three times the profits per acre and 30 percent higher yields during drought” with agricultural techniques that also clean water and restore soils. . . .
- Resource productivity: “Energy and resource intensity per person will have to drop dramatically.” That imperative can drive “innovation in material sciences, engineering, advanced manufacturing, and energy production, distribution, and consumption.”
- Excess liquidity: Channel all the corporate cash that’s sitting around in funds into long-term investments in America by taxing waste and creating regional growth strategies.
- Stranded hydrocarbon assets: Figure out how to devalue the immense amount of carbon that’s still sitting underneath the ground without unduly traumatizing the economy.
This last–leaving the fossil fuel in the ground–is the major goal of 350.org’s divestment movement and collaborative efforts to stop the Keystone XL pipeline, both of which campaigns are gaining momentum. And so this proposal is not just a fantasy; millions recognize that we are already beginning to shift the paradigm toward sustainability. Doherty’s article is long, but it’s clearly written and easy to follow; I recommend it. And let’s make sure President Obama and his cabinet know about it. Isn’t that the implication of the photo on the Foreign Policy website article?