By James W. Johnson
It’s time to look ahead and see what is in store for 2018. Given 2017’s political and regulatory ‘death by a thousand cuts’ roller-coaster ride, wouldn’t it be good news if we had a decisive, once-and-for-all victory strategy? There is a way. It’s bold, but doable. Here’s the scoop.
In the summer of 2017, pv magazine editor Christian Roselund asked, “How do we achieve a clean energy economy?” The answer is, based on the fact the neither the Republicans or the Democrats are inspiring universal loyalty and devotion, is to use our political system to start a national, civil, centrist and moderate political party that reflects a new, inspiring vision for how America will use its influence. We’ll call it “The Sustainability Party.”
If there were a Sustainability Party in every state, we would have same credible voice as the dominant parties. We already have a core of terrific state and national organizations, standards, teaching and certification groups, and advocacy groups, We also have a quarter-million plus solar industry employees, a million-plus homeowners and businesses who have already gone solar, and millions who haven’t pulled the trigger. Think of our political and regulatory battles as a boxing match. To get in the ring, you need to be wearing gloves that pull everything together. That’s a national political network, and we need one.
If we were an established political entity, we could reach out to voters who are ready to throw in with another party, or the vast population of millennials, women and minorities who are not yet engaged with any party. Ask yourself, “If we construct a powerful, inspiring vision that has the potential to launch America on an elevating journey of progress, couldn’t we attract a constituency that would number into the tens of millions?”
The answer is “Yes.” If we can marshal that kind of public sentiment, we’ll win the battles we face. Just ask Old Abe. During a 1858 debate with Stephen Douglas, Lincoln said:
With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it, nothing can succeed. Consequently he who moulds public sentiment, goes deeper than he who enacts statutes or pronounces decisions. He makes statutes and decisions possible or impossible to be executed.”
I don’t specialize in drafting mission statements, but we could start with something like “Recognizing that each generation are stewards for those to come, we conclude that humanity’s next great frontier lies in “balancing the need to extract resources from the earth with the equally important need to preserve a rich environment for future generations.” The extension of this position could constitutes our nation’s next “we’re going to the moon” BHAG (“Big Hairy Audacious Goal”), to wit:
“Although we do not deny the importance of a strong military, The Sustainability Party advocates that it is in humanity’s best interest to make peace more profitable than war. Towards this end, we support policies that enhance humanity’s ability to harness the sun, and to make energy available throughout the world. We advocate the development of clean, sustainable technologies and systems, and are confident that America can rebrand itself by pursuing these objectives.
There is a logical foreign policy extension of developing a sustainable technologies and systems sector. Being able to harvest and deliver unlimited, clean energy to the entire planet is not only a liberating scientific breakthrough of epic proportion, it represents the greatest source of wealth humanity has ever seen. Using figures developed by the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, it is reasonable to project a multi-trillion-dollar annual global market for sustainability products, services, and systems, particularly in the developing world.
According to The Iron Law, first promulgated in 1978, energy consumption and economic growth reflect each other. If one goes up, the other goes up. This just makes sense, and certainly makes for good foreign policy.
It has been said that, “Sometime, the cards aren’t worth a dime if you don’t lay ‘em down. (Truckin’, The Grateful Dead / Jerry Garcia). I’ll put my money where my mouth is, and am starting The Sustainability Party on January 16th, 2018.
You are invited to come to the Salt Lake City Library on January 16, 2018 at 6:00 p.m., and help establish “The Sustainability Party.” If you can’t come to SLC, not to worry. We are putting up a Facebook page. You can our mailing list, and let us know if you would like to help establish The Sustainability Party in your state.
James W. “Jamey” Johnston is the Director of Vector Solar, a division of Vector Engineers in Draper, Utah. He can be reached by email at email@example.com.
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While I share the writer’s desire to put sustainability at the center of the political debate, his proposed solution would in fact move us further from that goal.
This is because a centrist “Sustainability Party” is certain to draw more voters away from the major party that is more supportive of sustainability. Thus, its affect would be to help the party that is least supportive of sustainability. It would be wiser to reward individual candidates and the major party (in our current political environment: the Democratic Party) that gives more support to sustainability.
Very few people are happy with ALL the positions of either major party, but politics involves gives and takes, in order to build coalitions. It is very clear that one party has — in large part — accepted the urgency of climate change and, under the previous administration, made quite a bit of progress on clean energy and international agreements. Why would we want to divide the environmental community so that we could punish the party that wants to do something about sustainability and reward the party that’s denying science?
I certainly appreciate your thoughts. I recognize that establishing a new national party is an enormous undertaking. Likewise, it might pull voters away from the two established parties. I will continue to ponder this because:
1) Neither party seems particularly relevant to me or my family.
2) I think there is historical precedent for the emergence of a new political party, particularly when there is a definite vacuum of leadership on the political landscape. I am sorry, and perhaps you are content with a choice of Hilary Clinton or Donald Trump, but I am not. If that is the best we have to choose from, we need to look somewhere else.
3) My frustration lies in the absence of leadership from within the parties themselves. I fear that, because of our campaign system, elected officials are dependent on special interests, and then, post-election, become beholden to them.
4) We have had two Presidents elected on the basis of “Change.” In each case, the realities of checks and balances government, which I believe to be an inspired system, demands that the Legislative Branch work with the Executive Branch to effect meaningful change. See #3 above for a little more discussion of this viewpoint.
5) The groups that I would hope to motivate and galvanize are not presently ‘engaged’ with the two parties on any large scale — they include millennial women who are in the workforce, minorities / immigrants who have caught sight of the American Dream, and women in general. These are people who know how to work, and deservedly should have a seat at the table planning our future.
I’ll close with a quote from Thomas Jefferson’s letter to James Madison, just after Shay’s Rebellion … “I hold it that a little rebellion, now and then, is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical.”
Over the past half century, I have been unimpressed with the Establishment’s strategy for piloting the world that my children, and my children’s children are inheriting.
If nothing else, I would hope that we can all agree that generational awareness, the idea that we are merely temporary stewards, and should leave things better than we found them, should dominate our worldview. Or is there something more important than that?
You tell me … OK?
All the best,
You are right to think of political action on the basis of a shared human interest in sustainability but the idea of a political party organized along that issue is faulty.
Rather than considering the “Bull Moose Party” as your model – I say it because it was Teddy Roosevelt’s brainchild and Roosevelt did more for conservation than any other single president – I would suggest looking at the dark side for a model of what is needed.
So, pardon me if I pull the organizations that populate the American Right out of my magician’s hat and say that those organizations – the ground-work for which was laid by years of think tanks and the like – provides a much more sustainable and effective organizational structure for accomplishing the tasks at hand.
The strength comes from actively involved grass roots organizations that can deliver people to the polls through the general issue of sustainability.
The real challenge is the creation of such a single group when you have to know that the extractive industries – not just limited to coal, gas and oil – but often mining outfits for things like lithium which are integral to sustainable technologies will consider renewable energy – especially solar, wind, wave and geothermal but even efficiency measures – are considered existential threats by specific wealthy powerful and allied industries. These interests, which includes nation states (Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Venezuela, etc.) are very powerful and are willing to do some mighty nasty things (like hacking elections) to keep the world suckling at their teat.
Add to those dedicated to mucking up a broad-based western political party less than exemplary actors, industries like the domestic power industry; which is also existentially challenged by sustainable distributed power generation.
The challenge is to understand not only how to provide support for sustainable measures for energy distribution but how to erode and ultimately defeat the well-funded efforts of the legacy energy system.
Accomplishing that will need an effort that spans all political parties in a process that would at the very least, neutralize the influence of the Koch Brothers.
The good news is that while such an undertaking will be quite costly, it should be able to be accomplished at a price less than that paid by the Koch’s for their current level of influence. The reason is simple; sustainability approaches are the right thing to do.
Thanks for your lucid and cogent comments. I appreciate them
I agree with you. I am a very simple person. Really, I am just a nobody, and my thoughts are idealistic at best. As Robert Burns observed, “If man’s reach doth not exceed his grasp, what, then, is a heaven for?”
It’s too bad, I think. If I use the OECD numbers, it appears that, by 2030, the annual handle on the overall sustainability industry is going to be in five to eight trillion dollars a year.
That should be enough to get several Governors excited, kind of like the first few years of gov’t-funded NASA contracts.
You’re right, of course, about the absence of political will. That is certainly a problem — one way to solve it is to engage a powerful demographic that is not already co-opted by either party (and despite the protests of some, I suspect that you can find historical precedent suggest that political parties are not necessarily eternal).
As a side note, you’ll have to forgive me, but although it was decades ago, I grew up in the Rocky Mountain, Texas and California oil communities, and I can tell you that, if you dig down not very deep, you’ll find that a LOT of Texas oil money shaped the conservative movement. All I am saying is that energy money seeps into and then dominates the political scene.
Of course, those who hold the reigns of power do not relinquish them lightly.
Your platform seems very similar to those espoused by the Progressive wing of the Democratic Party. Since Progressive Democrats are now in control of the Party, it would seem that joining them to strengthen their environmental bonafides would be a more efficient use of resources.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Perhaps you are right.
Take a look at my responses to George and Ken — for what it is worth, I think I have covered my thinking. I guess we will all have to wait and see what happens!
All the best,
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