The United States should take a page out of the Boy Scouts’ manual about being prepared, and look to Switzerland for a model of behavior.
The last four years were the hottest years on record and the last decade the hottest since data have been collected. Switzerland’s people are witnessing the impact of warmer years. Glaciers in the Alps are melting fast. As a result, streams are flowing and filling lakes to the brim. Switzerland is taking advantage of this great, green (non-polluting) opportunity by modifying their infrastructure and generating over 50% of the country’s power through hydroelectric plants.
The Swiss have taken smart, quick action to both save the earth and conserve money and resources.
The Swiss didn’t stop there. They engaged logic and engineering and hit the drawing boards planning what to do next. They looked into the future and concluded that those caps will eventually retreat to the point of offering less water from the cache of accumulated ice. The now raging streams will shrink and eventually dry up exposing valleys carved by the rushing water. Up to the challenge, engineers are preparing to make use of those natural valleys, if and when they are exposed, ready to turn them into new storage sites for water that can be redirected and saved for future use. They have an infrastructure plan of dams and levees that will create new, natural reservoirs from which power can continue to be generated.
The timeline isn’t important. The fact that the Swiss have created a cogent plan for the future is admirable. In the U.S. we can’t even plan how to fund our government for more than three-month stints. We are constantly at battle, treading water, and neglecting to take advantage of time and money-saving proactive study. Due to federal inaction, states created plans to improve and repair infrastructure, including budgets, only to have the current administration bumble into a trade-war and impose tariffs, causing escalating steel prices. This necessitated cancellation of state-initiated projects due to higher costs that rendered budgets insufficient.
To make matters worse, on June 1, 2017 Donald Trump announced that the United States would withdraw from all participation in the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate. As of today, 197 countries, including the likes of Russia and Syria, are signed-on to the agreement. Russia, the world’s fifth largest polluter, isn’t fully on board yet, but is expected to add their green plans by the end of the year. According to Russian President Vladimir Putin, not only is Russia moving toward fully getting on board the agreement, but is considering taking over the leadership void created by the U.S. departure––scheduled for 2020, just as the project is set to get underway. Can you see our spot as world leader slipping away?
The accord focus is setting goals and planning to meet them starting next year to lessen greenhouse gasses, plan interventions to stem temperature rise, create education opportunities, and a host of other actions in relation to climate change. As an action plan example, Australia is preparing to plant a billion trees––Mr. Trump won’t even let us get started.
The agreement was written with the understanding that every country is different and at different stages of industrialization and progress toward a green environment. Each country created their own standards. Fittingly, as world leaders we once were in 2016, the U.S.’s plans were aggressive but doable over the span of the pact. When Donald Trump was sworn in as president, with his typical, juvenile mindset, he pronounced the agreement “unfair” to the U.S. because other countries are at different starting points and have challenges that differ from those of the U.S. of A. So, he decided to quit and go home instead of rolling up his sleeves, getting to work, leading, and being part of the solution.
But, great news! It wasn’t Mr. Trump’s ball to take home when he quit. There are 20 states, 50-plus cities, hundreds of corporations, and many universities that have signed on to America’s Pledge. Understanding the U.S. will not have a leadership role, they promise to continue to abide by the Paris Agreement the best they can, even though the task will be much more difficult without federal help. Those entities refuse to cow to Mr. Trump’s hissy-fit over fairness and are forging ahead. They are intent on showing that progress can be made to thwart climate change, are busy enlisting more converts, and are making the effort to be a part of the process.
One example of U.S. private industry getting involved comes from the Patagonia outdoor gear company and its founder, Yvon Chouinard. Mr. Chouinard is going to donate the $10 million his company gained in profits from the Trump tax cut to programs working on regenerative, organic agriculture projects that fight global warming. A non-example is the Congressional grilling Mr. Trump’s nominee to head the Council on Environmental Quality, Kathleen Hartnett White, got when Congress members realized that she had no knowledge of basic environmental data and issues. She, mercifully, withdrew her name from consideration.
We have one shared planet, one shared problem, and 197 different solutions. It would be honorable and a return to leadership if we could pitch in as a unified country doing all we can to assist in a solution without first considering the bottom line on an invoice.