In the US, science and sustainability has had a rough year. We've seen alt-facts, skinny budgets, climate denying administrators, and now withdrawal from the Paris Agreement. As I said on Twitter yesterday and today, the most mind-boggling part of yesterday's announcement is the absence of true upsides, regardless of one's political persuasion. We live in a time of political theatre with humanity and truth in the balance.
So what are we supposed to do?
It might be cliche to say "keep soldiering on," but I do think that's what we need to do.
I was recently traveling with UMN President Eric Kaler who, in remarks to leadership at the University of Iceland, spoke of fear and mistrust of truth and expertise in the US. He talked about climate change and other grand challenges as a major duty and responsibility of our time, challenges that require new knowledge and talented leaders. And he talked about international collaboration as a key way to move the globe--not just our country--forward.
I couldn't agree with these sentiments more. And we have to remember that there are *alot* of people of goodwill around the world who are searching for answers about how to make the world a better place, to reduce our environmental footprint and to build a better future. Those people are Democrats and Republicans, they are Africans and Asians, they are corporate leaders, civil servants and neighbors. They are scientists, policy wonks, inventors, farmers and consumers. The Institute on the Environment exists to serve those people, and political theatre is simply not enough of a deterrent to make us stop.
In a letter to the UN yesterday, Mayor Bloomberg made an important point, saying: "The bulk of the decisions which drive U.S. climate action in the aggregate are made by cities, states, businesses, and civil society." These are exactly the folks that we work with every day and aim to serve.
During my Iceland travels, I also had a chance to meet Vigdís Finnbogadóttir. Vigdís was Iceland and Europe's first female president, elected in 1980. She is known around the world as a feminist who played an essential role on the international stage for peace and democracy. Vigdís is a model of what is possible when we aspire to greatness through social responsibility, courage and true political leadership.
She told me this week that it's the environment and our lack of respect for it that worries her most today. In her third inaugural address in 1988, Vigdís said, "This is our means to repay our debt of land to generations both born and unborn. We may judge previous generations harshly for treating our land more severely than good sense allowed but we need also to understand that they had no choice. We do not have the same excuse and our descendants will not forgive us on the same terms."
I want to be around *ambitious* folks who think and act like Vigdís. I'm going to spend my time and talent with people of goodwill who seek to create a bright and smart future. I want to overcome the naiveté of our past failings and mitigate the need for excuses to our descendants, by taking action when we knew it was right.
Please keep your head up, your eyes on the prize, and bring your A-game to your incredibly important work.