A Birthday Celebration: Here’s to a Better, Greener Year

Happy Birthday, America.  Today you are 202 years old which by today’s standards, that still makes you a toddler among other nations.  This has been quite the year though – what with historic election of our first black President, dominating swimming in the Olympics, finally putting OJ Simpson in jail and watching the financial markets crash.  You must really be tired, America.  But the end of your 201st year has sparked some major changes in environmental policy and sustainable development that suggest that maybe, just maybe, year 202 could be our greenest year yet. 

Let’s take a quick look back.  The term sustainability really came to rise in this country in 1969 with the passage of the U.S. National Environmental Policy Act which created the sometimes controversial Environmental Protection Agency.  A decade later, President Jimmy Carter installed solar panels on the roof of the White House and encouraged all Americans to put on a sweater, turn down the thermostat and conserve.  That’s about as bright as it gets in our brief history – a year later, with election of Republican candidate Ronald Reagan to the office of the Presidency, they were torn down.  Reagan also removed all controls and regulations on oil prices, thus eventually making his sucessors prisoners of the Middle East and increasing America’s dependence on foreign oil exponentially. 

The 90s and early 2000s were plagued by ineffective legislation and in the latter years, a leader who showed little to no support for any real environmental change despite mounting evidence that climate change would have a devastating effect on future generations.  We are on the brink of a new decade and it seems, America, there may be a light at the end of this tunnel afterall.  We have elected a president who acknowledges global warming as an eminent threat to our future (which in and of itself is a small victory) and a climate bill in Congress that looks to be the most aggressive piece of environmental legislation ever drafted.

But that’s not all – multi-national companies are showing signs that they believe sustainability is both profitable and socially responsible and that they wish to be both.  Even the US Military is jumping on board with renewable energy efforts to decrease their carbon footprint.  Being green and sustainable is no longer a fad for hippies and tree huggers – although America, we should applaud them for being right all this time.  We are in the midst of strange times with unchartered ground ahead – but the need to reduce, rethink and reapply our knowledge and resources to be smarter and sustainable is no longer just an option.  It’s a necessity. 

We’re in the midst of a revolution, America.  So Happy Birthday – and here’s to a brighter, smarter, cleaner year ahead.