For how long do we think we can continue the mental shell game of building economic success today based on externalizing the costs of critical natural inputs (water, air, carbon sequestration and so forth)?
When is it worth protecting a wetland or enacting a new safety regulation? Writ large, what is the role of government in promoting and protecting public welfare? Regardless of our political orientation in this dizzying presidential election season, few would oppose basic government standards for electrical wiring in our homes or in the service of food safety, right? But how much is enough or too much?
This year’s CERES conference in Boston was provocative and challenging -- as it should be in celebration of 25 years of creative, innovative, and collaborative advocacy to bring greater openness and accountability to corporate behavior. And it is behavior, of course, that needs to change; openness and accountability are only the tools of the trade in modifying corporate practices.
I am comforted by the awareness that changes we dismiss as inconceivable are often viewed by historians as having been inevitable. A Happy New Year might thus include news of the following momentous changes.
As Hurricane Sandy shifted the national conversation in the closing days of the U.S. 2012 presidential campaign, so too has the rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School interrupted the partisan machinations over government spending and taxation. As we look forward to 2013 and beyond we thus have a rare moment to reflect and observe that these issues share a common root: the respective roles of government and business to shape our future as people and as a national community.
Markets may well be the most finely tuned mechanism we have for allocating resources efficiently around short-term costs and prices. But absent a robust framework of social and cultural values and priorities to channel market operations these efficient markets will lead to vast inequity and depletion of critical resources.
In my closing remarks at the Sustainable Food Laboratory Summit I explained that I did not think sustainability was a goal, a metric, or even an approach to doing business. Rather, it is a principle. And it has at its core a fundamental rethinking of space and time.
While serving as executive director of the Environmental Education Media Project Jonathan Halperin managed the creation of Hope in a Changing Climate, the award-winning documentary screened in Copenhagen at COP-15 and broadcast globally by BBC World.
Jonathan makes connections that other people miss. Beyond an understanding of any single environmental issue or energy challenge, he knows how to use knowledge to drive change, how to bring the right players to the table, and how to reframe seemingly intractable problems to create space for new approaches. He’s a strategic thinker with a very clear sense of how things work.
Senior Fellow and Director of the Center for Climate and Electricity Policy, Resources for the Future