Thursday, November 20, 2008

To The Next U.S. President: 100 Words for 100 Days

WorldChanging Team

The eyes of the world are riveted on the U.S. election.

That's understandable: this may well be the most important election in the history of the world's most powerful nation. But while the last days of this campaign leading up to the election are important, what comes after the election will be even more important. The next U.S. president will face a nation in economic chaos, a people suffering from deepening political divisions, and a planet in desperate need of leadership on a whole host of extremely critical issues.

The first hundred days of a new administration are the honeymoon, the period in which the president can present a new vision for the nation and begin to advance a new agenda.

Even the most intelligent and most prepared leader will face unprecedented challenges when taking office in 2008. The least we can do is offer our best advice.

We recently called upon the smartest, most interesting people we know to answer the following question:

In 100 words or less, what should the next president do in his first 100 days to address the planet's most pressing problems?

We hope you enjoy reading their responses below:

Ted Wolf, Portland writer and board member, Focus the Nation

World Without Borders*
The forty-fourth President of the United States should devote two weeks of the First 100 Days to a round-the-world journey with a stop on every continent. At each stop, he should gather leaders of culture, faith, and civil society at a World Heritage Site and listen to their counsel. He should then convene regional heads of state at a place showcasing sustainability innovation and explain America’s stake in their success. Once home, the President should frame his agenda around efforts to move country and planet beyond carbon, warfare, and absolute poverty. Barnstorming a world without borders, the President can begin America’s journey toward a bright green future.
*Title of a 1972 book by Lester R. Brown

Eric de Place, Senior Researcher, Sightline Institute

Two words -- “cap” and “dividend” – can get us off oil; end our global warming pollution; and funnel money from the wealthy to the middle class.

You know cap and trade. Make it cap and dividend by taking the revenue from auctioning carbon permits – every last nickel – and returning it to Americans in equal shares. Each year, everyone gets a “Carbon Dividend” check, just like the Alaska Permanent Fund. It’s economically progressive. Carbon Dividend checks will be the new Social Security: a pocketbook advantage that gives middle class Americans a stake in fixing climate change and getting off fossil fuels.

Sanjay Khanna, Principal, Khanna Research + Communications

Coordinated Nationwide Public Information Campaign on Economy and Climate
Today, the global economic meltdown and the climate crisis are key forces affecting civil society. That is why the new president will need to bring to public awareness sound climate science and policy aimed at supporting innovation and civic sustainability. Americans need the new presidential administration to help them understand the grave ramifications of environmental degradation and profligate energy use. Within its first 100 days in office, the new administration should conduct a massive, nationwide public information campaign encouraging every citizen to cooperate on making their locales more humane, inclusive, and resilient to predictable economic dislocation and climate chaos.

Mara Hvistendahl, science and environmental writer based in Shanghai

Stop using China as an environmental scapegoat. Several times over the past few years, Chinese leaders have signaled to business and industry to expect emissions caps after 2008 – if the U.S. accepts carbon constraints first. They’re now watching our presidential race closely, and, I’d guess, preparing to respond to the new president’s environmental policy.
China may be the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitter, but the U.S. led the way. We now need to lead the way in fixing the mess.

Lisa Witter, Chief Operating Officer, FENTON Communications

A crisis is a terrible thing to waste. The next President will inherit an exceptional opportunity to refocus how we, as Americans, relate to each other and our fellow global citizens. As he works to rescue the health of the economy, planet and people, he needs to leverage legislation and his moral authority to convince Americans to embrace: 1) responsibility for our selves, families, communities and earth; 2) the understanding that we’re all in this together; and 3) deep empathy. The first 100 days should focus equally on passing legislation and the values those laws represent.

Hunter Lovins, President, Natural Capitalism Solutions and Professor of Sustainable Management, Presidio School of Management

1. Implement Presidential Climate Action Project - several hundred experts show how climate protection unleashes the new energy economy: e.g each megawatt saved in a community increases economic output $2.5 million; renewable energy creates 10 times as many jobs as coal plants.
2. Reframe international development, e.g. war in Afghanistan, to empower people to meet their own needs for energy, water, food, sanitation, transportation, buildings, etc., using world best practice in sustainable technologies to deliver basic human needs. Pouring American tax dollars into perverse welfare societies for Western contractors, and using soldiers instead of real development won't work.

Sarah Severn, Director, Corporate Responsibility Horizons, Nike Inc.

Within the first 100 days of taking office, the next President must secure passage of federal legislation that addresses climate change in a meaningful way for the United States. Such legislation must set hard and ambitious, scientifically based greenhouse gas reduction targets, establish a cap and trade system with auctioned allowances, create innovative programs to incentivise energy efficiency and it must develop new ways to invest in clean technology and green jobs. The President should engage global leaders and experts from both the developed and developing world to strike an equally bold international climate change agreement.

Gus Speth, Dean, School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, Yale University

There are many issues on which early progress is needed, but the issue on which it is imperative is climate change. The closer one gets to the science, the more disturbing the image that emerges. There are executive actions that the President can take without legislation in the first 100 days, and a broader program for national action can be laid out. It should include the greenhouse gas reduction goals for which the President will fight. A complementary energy plan is an essential part of the program, one that also stresses "freedom from oil," but that is no substitute for federal legislation that caps emissions directly. A part of the presidential executive action package should be action to halt new coal-fired generation that does not have carbon capture and storage. A special organizational structure in the White House will have to be created to address the climate issue nationally and internationally, including Congressional relations. Most importantly, the President will have to address the seriousness of the climate emergency honestly in an address from the Oval Office.

Eric Corey Freed, Principal, organicARCHITECT; Author, "Green Building & Remodeling for Dummies"

Our next President must embrace the idea of an inevitable future free of fossil fuels. I propose a call to action similar to the civilian rationing programs of World War II. Back then, it was in the name of "victory" and so our next President must redefine "victory" to mean a sustainable economy free of fossil fuels. The $78 billion of taxes used to subsidize the oil industry will be reapplied to renewable sources instead. Gasoline that is rationed and adjusted for true costs is no match for abundant subsidized solar or wind power.

Simran Sethi, sustainable business contributor for CNBC, host of Sundance Channel's "The Green," and professional-in-residence at the University of Kansas School of Journalism.

Aggressively address climate and energy. Fossil fuel combustion accounts for 80 percent of the rise of CO2 in our atmosphere. Climatologists Pushker Karecha and James Hansen assert that CO2 can be kept below harmful levels as long as emissions from coal are phased out within the next few decades. Encourage conservation as the first and best energy strategy. Allocate additional infrastructure funding into renewable geothermal, wind, and solar energy. Phase out coal and eliminate coal subsidies. Mandate carbon capture and storage for any new coal plants being built. We can and will mitigate climate change and achieve energy independence if we're smart about resource allocation.

Bill McKibben, Middlebury College

I'm counting the first hundred days a little funny--from the date of his election in early November. And I think the most important thing he could do is head to Poznan in Poland for the huge international climate meeting that will take place there in early December. His presence would electrify the meeting, show the world that the U.S. is once more serious about its international obligations, and begin the task of focusing Americans on the question of climate, really for the first time. Anyone who wants to help invite him can do so simply by visiting

Kenny Ausubel, Founder + CEO, Bioneers

The President can:
Engage the country to re-imagine how to live on Earth in ways that honor the web of life, each other and future generations.
Declare a new social contract of interdependence: Taking care of nature means taking care of people, and taking care of people means taking care of nature.
Transform the global economy from a vicious cycle to a virtuous cycle, using a Green Deal to boot up the restoration economy.
Adopt the Presidential Climate Action Plan (PCAP).
Devolve power and money to the cities and states.
Hold a Constitutional Convention to institute the legally enforceable rights of nature and ecosystems.

Jamais Cascio, Co-Founder, Worldchanging/World-Builder-in-Chief, Open the Future

Although the present crises demand much of our time and attention, the next president must have a longer-term view of the challenges we'll face this century. The creation of an official Foresight Agency -- pulling in talent and insights from across the spectrum of official government departments -- would both formalize and legitimize the practice of looking ahead at emerging threats, technologies, and opportunities. The UK's Foresight Directorate offers an example of how this might work. We can no longer afford individual departments looking only at their narrow areas of interest; we need a cross-disciplinary view of tomorrow.

Bruce Sterling

1. Say warm, kind, supportive things to the "international community." Announce plans for a glamorous summit of heads of state. Invite the pariahs.
Respond urbanely to frenzied scoldings from aliens.
2. Feed every American NGO that was ritually starved during Bush. Rehabilitate activists made invisible and inaudible by previous regime. Distribute medals and praise.
3. Abolish Department of "Homeland Security," abolish Guantanamo, restore habeas corpus, 4th Amendment, etc.
4. Arrest bin Laden.
5. Loudly indict some malefactor from previous regime so as to keep the rag-tag die-hards off-balance and busy defending him.

Zoe Chafe, Senior Fellow, Worldwatch Institute

Our new president faces an incredible opportunity—to guide the United States in slowing, stopping, and ultimately reversing its greenhouse gas emissions. With the health and security of current and future Americans in mind, our new leader should:
1) show how any new economic policies will also decrease American carbon emissions;
2) support the quick passage of carefully-constructed climate legislation that puts a price on carbon emissions;
3) reengage with international efforts to halt climate change (through the UNFCCC); and
4) immediately discourage the construction of new power plants that will rely on dirty fossil fuels for decades to come.

Joy Green, Forum for the Future

He must connect the economic crisis to the underlying environmental crisis - everything else should flow from that. He must frame the public debate so that it is blindingly obvious that action on one must include the other.
A U.S. pushing ahead with a Green New Deal for low carbon infrastructure, energy and jobs would not only reinvigorate itself, but send a powerful message to the rest of the world – yes it IS possible.
Above all, he must prepare the US to rejoin the global community as a leader and collaborator at the Copenhagen climate negotiations next year. A binding global agreement is critical.

Alan Durning, Executive Director, Sightline Institute

The economy has gone off a cliff but has yet to bottom out. By the time a new president takes office, we all will have felt the consequences.
Yet twin opportunities are hidden in this moment: first, the new president will have a political opening to launch a clean-energy revolution, re-juicing the economy by safeguarding the climate.
Second, the president will have the chance to tell us a new—or old—story about markets and governments. In words and laws, he can restore the public sector’s stature as the corrective to the private. We need that belief back to rise to our many planetary challenges.

Cameron Sinclair, Eternal Optimist

After three long years of working on the Gulf Coast, our team has seen firsthand many well-crafted community led rebuilding projects squashed by outdated and poorly constructed policies. Architecture is a political act and the constraints that are restricting design and construction professionals to build better environments are directly tied to broken policy and funding. The next U.S. president must change the laws that restrict our ability to excel in developing energy efficient, human-centric environments for all. Read more.

Howard Rheingold, author and educator

Put our money where your mouth is and consult with people who really know green energy technologies and jump-start a green energy technology industry. Re-establish U.S. pre-eminence in Internet technology by stimulating fiber to the home broadband Internet and municipal Wi-Fi. We need collaboration platforms to solve pressing problems.

Jay Walljasper, editor, editor-at-large Ode magazine, former editor of Utne Reader

I urge the next president to seize this historical moment by articulating a new worldview for America. Everything looks to be unraveling right now, so the incoming administration must immediately deliver a rousing vision of how life can improve for average citizens. At the core of this message should be an old idea called The Commons—meaning the things that belong to all us. This includes air, water, parks, the internet, culture, public services and much more. For years we put all our faith in the market, but now our security and happiness depend more on what we share in common.

Denis Hayes, President & CEO, Bullitt Foundation

The United States doubled its national debt on President Bush's watch to $10 trillion. You don't want to raise taxes, and the Chinese, Japanese, and Saudis do not intend to buy more of our debt. Other than just firing up the printing presses, the most promising way to keep America viable is to place a firm cap on all carbon fuels, tighten that cap every year, auction all carbon permits and allow no offsets. In addition to producing hundreds of billions of dollars of revenue each year, this will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, wean us off foreign oil, and dramatically accelerate investments in renewable energy sources.

Jeremy Faludi, Worldchanging Contributing Editor, green design strategist & analyst, lecturer in green product design at Stanford University

- Launch the "Apollo Program" of renewable energy.
- Veto the current financial bailout plan, and instead push the Bernie Sanders plan.
- Reinstate the Fairness Doctrine in broadcast media.
- Push campaign finance reform
- Pressure states to rewrite water rights laws so that market forces are harnessed to improve agricultural water efficiency and restore habitat, rather than the opposite, as is currently the case.
- Build a viable alternative to American occupation of Iraq by building a coalition of Arab nations to share the policing of the fledgling state. Replace troops with police, replace vilified foreigners with more sympathetic and culturally attuned actors. It might even give people from non-democratic nations an infectious stint in an emerging democracy. (Assuming it works.)
- Appoint the following cabinet:
- Amory Lovins, Secretary of Energy
- William McDonough, Secretary of Housing & Urban Development
- Thomas Barnett, Secretary of Defense
- Vinod Khosla, Secretary of Commerce
- Wes Jackson, Secretary of Agriculture
- Bruce Schneier, Secretary of Homeland Security
- Peter Newman, Secretary of Transportation (not American, but that's ok.)
- Stewart Brand, Secretary of State
- Frank Rijsberman, Secretary of the Interior
- Van Jones, Secretary of Labor
- Dee Hock, Secretary of the Treasury

Michael Northrop, Program Director, Rockefeller Brothers Fund

Make energy efficiency and clean energy generation the core of America’s next great economic boom. Help people make all buildings net energy generators by 2030; encourage the manufacture of cars that get 100mpg by 2020; get people out of their cars where possible by switching the country’s transportation priorities to transit; and support the rapid development of clean energy generation and transmission. The savings, jobs, and economic development that ensue will spark one of the greatest economic booms in American history.

Pierre Omidyar

Actually, here's my contribution:
Could be interesting to see what comes up... keep an eye on
for results.

Mathis Wackernagel, Ph.D. Executive Director, Global Footprint Network

Get a man on the moon? Done!
Keep humanity on Earth? This is a goal, dear next president, to take on:
* Start an Apollo program to get us off fossil fuel within ten years.
* Make available the famous 0.7 % of our GDP to gain lasting grounds against poverty and to make the world safer through cooperation. Of course this includes immunization and eradicating Malaria and other life-threatening and stifling diseases. In addition, it requires massive investments in women everywhere to secure their access to safe family planning and education.
* Lead the global climate effort and inspire the American spirit to provide the necessary solutions, from “American green color jobs” to “zero-carbon cities.”
* Help natural capital regain competitiveness against financial capital. If you fail, our precious and life-supporting natural capital will be liquidated by the rational market. One possible step in this direction might be to gradually move towards a 100% reserve requirement for banks.

Patrick Mazza, Research Director, Climate Solutions

Obama already has announced that building a new energy economy will be his top priority. As Obama told Joe Klein, we’ve maxed out the national credit card and need a new economic turbocharger, one built not on driving consumer demand with debt but on rebuilding our productive capacities and energy is at the center. I could not ask for a better or larger framing goal. I would ask for a refinement to recognize the regional basis of economies – We’re not a big national economy so much as we are a federation of regional economies grounded in specific industry clusters. Climate Solutions and CleanEdge identified a series of key clean tech clusters emerging in the Pacific Northwest in our new Carbon Free Prosperity 2025 report. Obama’s new energy economy plan should strongly focus on strategies that enable various American economic regions to identify and grow their own core clusters, e.g. solar photovoltaic manufacturing in the Northwest, electric vehicles in the Midwest, concentrating solar in the Southwest. Have a national plan that recognizes the critical role of geography in the new energy economy, one that literally rebuilds our economy from the ground up.

Jacqueline Novogratz, Founder and CEO, Acumen Fund

In his first 100 days, the president should:
* Listen – not just to leaders but to everyday people. Understand the challenges and recognize solutions that are working.
* Invest in the smartest entrepreneurs on the planet who are focused on solving the world’s toughest problems.
* Measure the change they make.
* Create a global corps of young people with the skills, imagination and resources to work together on those solutions.
This is our chance to see America as a leader in an interconnected world where every human being is valued, and we can again focus on imagining a world of possibility and change.

Alan AtKisson, President & CEO, The AtKisson Group

From Entebbe, Uganda: A global financial crisis is currently dominating the headlines. But the twin crises of crushing poverty and wrenching transformations in the world's natural systems will continue long after the markets stabilize, for they are symptoms of deeper, structural problems in the global system. The next president must reassure the world that the United States will not shirk from a profound moral duty to both address these pressing, long-term crises, and to join the world community of nations and peoples in the attempt to understand and change the underlying design flaws in the global economy.

Emily Pilloton, Founder, Project H Design

This election, our votes are both rally cheers ("Gimme a U! S! A!") and cries for help ("SOS"). In the first 100 days of your term, Mr. President, give us not wishful thinking but wishful doing in a new generation of the American Dream- one that prioritizes invention that heals and inspires, one that is brave and inclusive. Be a fearless activist. Show us through swift and savvy legislative decisions what your priorities really are (we've got our fingers crossed for economic repair and scalable renewable energies), then spend the next 4 years proving us right for voting for you.

Darius Rejali, Author, Torture and Democracy

Whoever the next president is, he needs to recognize that the best professionals from counterterrorism and intelligence have retired and left the agencies that torture in disgust; that administration whistleblowers I know of live in fear; and that journalists I know report the VA hospitals have soldiers with atrocity related trauma who are unacknowledged and untreated. Without whistleblowers it is impossible to identify budgetary fraud much less human rights violations; without good intelligence, there is only stupidity in war; and without acknowledgement and treatment, veterans becomes dangerous to themselves and others, real ticking time bombs. My fondest hope then is that the next President, Republican or Democrat, takes steps to strengthen the whistleblower laws, makes an evaluation and clean sweep of performance in the intelligence agencies, and reminds the American people that what we asked our veterans to do went beyond serving the country’s call to war, that no American soldier should ever be asked to torture again, and that all of us need to pay the cost of treatment. These are necessary first steps.

Danah Boyd, Fellow, Harvard Berkman Center for Internet and Society

Much of what needs to be done to address the various crises at play requires social solidarity and collaboration. While specific issues must be addressed, the next U.S. president must also work to ease domestic and global fractures. At a global level, the next president should immediately arrange a gathering of global leaders to discuss financial and political threats with the goal of opening communication lines and designing a collective strategy. Domestically, the next president should outline steps citizens can take to help work towards collective stability. Both of these efforts should aim for collective buy-in.

Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO, GOOD Worldwide, Inc.

The next president will face an unenviable checklist of challenges. Whomever wins, I expect that we will see more money allocated to bolster our sagging financial sector as well as a national stimulus package to pump capital into the economy and rebuild our crumbling national infrastructure. This is critical, but we also should tap our extraordinary human capital to rebuild our social infrastructure. This would require a course of action that does not only offer top-down solutions but considers bottom-up approaches to solve the problems of our time.
For starters, he should convene a Conference of Social Enterprise through the Executive Office of the President. Its purpose would be to evaluate dynamic, localized models that mix innovation and incentives to tackle some of our toughest problems - education, health care, etc. Channel the creativity of people like Bill Drayton and Jacqueline Novogratz who have helped to uplift people from poverty around the world to build new models that meet our needs at home.
The next president also should leverage the extraordinary Millennial energy that blossomed in 2008 and convert it into action. He might engage pioneering individuals like Michael Brown of CityYear, Nick Allen of VolunteerMatch or Michelle Nunn of HandsOn to convert the AmeriCorps office into a permanent program that provides all interested Americans with a meaningful tuition reimbursement in exchange for service in their local communities. By helping young people scale the rising costs of a college education, he could make a terrific investment in our shared future.

Ory Okolloh

He should commit to restoring America's role as a global leader rather than a global bully…a good start would be withdrawing troops from Iraq and re-engaging positively with the rest of the world. He should also take steps to address the crisis of confidence in the markets, because this will inevitably (and unfairly) have an impact on the developing world. Finally, he should transform his message of change to action – the rest of the world will be watching and will no doubt be inspired to do the same – Obama should not fail to seize the moment.

Alexander Rose, Executive Director, The Long Now Foundation

Well, that's a tough one. Can I differentiate between candidates?
McCain's would have to start with: Fire her before she has a chance to become president.
Then either should get this...
Restore the United States. Restore our leadership in science, engineering, human and civil rights. We must be the leader in clean technology, clean air, and water. Restore our economy the long slow and robust way, not with gimmicks and short cuts. Restore the idea that government can be a force for good, and that civil servants and teachers are heroes. Restore the notion that being both hard working and smart is a good thing. Restore the United States.

George Dyson, science historian

No more top-down bail-out(s). Re-boot the economy from the bottom up. Socialize medicine, not banks. Reconstitute the Works Progress Administration (1935-1943) and the President's Science Advisory Committee (1951-1972). Establish a Department of Homeland Arithmetic (as recommended by Marvin Minsky) with the authority to place the country on orange alert when faced with numbers that just don’t add up. Pursue nuclear disarmament--with a unilateral first move being a good place to start.

John Thackara, Director, Doors of Perception

The President should appoint new leaders to Citizen Corps, and Ready America, and then address the nation: ”Is your community prepared?” He should describe the ways that peak energy, food and water are opportunities for the nation to regenerate, and mend. He should ask each region to map its ecosystems and human resources; identify any gaps; and then hold Transition Meetings to draw up Living Economy Action Plans. “Talk to each other, and then talk to me” he should say. "Oh, and one more thing: I'm withdrawing all dollars from circulation.They'll be re-issued as compost. From now on, please make your own money."

Paul Hawken

1. Establish long term goals for the nation with respect to:
Science and Research
2. Create a Department of Peace.
3. Clean house at the EPA and Department of the Interior.
4. Split off USDA from Department of the Interior as a separate cabinet post and call it Department of Food and Agriculture.
5. Set a ten-year goal for 90% reduction in fossil fuels.
1. Eliminate all subsidies and tax breaks for carbon based fuels.
2. Create $4 trillion of new Energy Bonds wherein we loan money to ourselves to build out a smart grid and move to 100% renewable energy.

Gil Friend, President & CEO, Natural Logic, Inc.

Lead. Inspire. Challenge.
Lay out big goals at the Inaugural: Energy independence within 10 years -– and carbon neutrality within 20 -- as the driver of economic recovery. Health insurance for all within three. Cooperation in the national interest, starting now. Affirm “government” as “what we do together."
Convene us, leaders and grassroots, across the political spectrum – to invent together how to get there. Invite our creativity and innovation – “voluntarily, for now.”
Map all federal investment, and design 18 month phase-out of all that conflict with our central goals.
Open source government data to feed national/regional/local performance dashboards to track & drive progress.

R.U. Sirius, Editor, H+ magazine and Author of True Mutations: Conversations on the Edge of Science, Technology and Consciousness, published by Pollinator Press.

Most days, I think Obama and McCain are running to be captain of the Titanic. ("Iceberg! Quick, put the black guy in the captain's seat!")
Ok, sorry, I'll try to be idealistic. The only thing a president could really accomplish in the first ninety days would be educational. Cautiously -- without seeming arrogant and trying not to freak people out – the president needs to get people to start thinking about the difference between actual wealth and monetary wealth and prepare people for the idea that a more bottom up economy might be healthy while looking statistically unhealthy.

Dr. Chris H. Luebkeman, Director for Global Foresight + Innovation, Arup

Immediately work toward establishing a national resource strategy. This should include both physical [i.e. Energy, Water...] and human resources. He should also re-establish education as a national priority and implement a review of the 50 state's capability to deliver a world class educational to the citizens

Andrew L. Shapiro, founder of GreenOrder, Inc.

Launch a Green New Deal
Dear Mr. President: Please launch a green New Deal so the U.S., and ultimately the world, can address both today’s economic crisis and our long-term energy, climate, and environmental problems. Marshal public and private funds (Buffett, Google, etc.) and make investments that will produce decent ROI in areas like: (1) Green transportation, (2) Scale-up of existing clean energy and efficiency efforts, (3) R&D for next-gen clean tech, (4) Education that addresses the science/math deficit, and (5) Green urban/regional planning. Engage our most creative minds to promote this New Deal, be transparent and accountable, and give people a sense of common purpose and, eventually, pride.

Lisa Renstrom, Director, ecoAmerica and Sierra Club President 2005-2007

For Barack Obama:
Continue to call upon the best in each us, so we may together build a just, safe, sustainable tomorrow.
For John McCain: Replace ALL Bush staff, advisors and appointees with any remaining Democratic friends you have and Republicans who recall how to be a principled conservative.
Either BHO or JSM 1) Use the financial crisis to drive through congress, market system reforms, (Capitalism 3.0) to charge users when they use of our shared resources and commons. 2) Restore America’s unique leadership in climate change solutions and join the nascent Green Economy Initiative spearheaded by the UN.

Nicole-Anne Boyer, Facilitator & Future Strategist, Adaptive Edge

Environment Impact = Population x Affluence x Technology. This classic "I-PAT" equation is as relevant as ever. The middle driver -- rethinking our consumption patterns and lifestyle -- must quickly become a policy priority if we're going to have a positive future. This hasn't been a priority for several reasons. For starters, technology has been easier to focus on, especially since good solutions here improve the whole equation. Secondly, ideological filters have interceded: to suggest changing our lifestyle is tantamount to dismantling the American Dream. Thirdly, we lack a special kind of knowledge: about how to bring about systemic change at a large scale. As Paul Erhlich recently observed, we need to compliment the revolutionary scientific advances with similar breakthroughs in the human sciences. We need a "Millenium Human Behavior Assessment" to help accelerate the kind of cultural shifts we need for a sustainable world. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, we suffer from an imagination deficit. Even though our current consumption model is only 50 years old, it's almost impossible for us to conceive of another way of living, especially a positive scenario. Yet this is the generative challenge the next administration must take on if we're going to be truly sustainable. And while this represents a long-term project well beyond the 100 day agenda, this has to start now. Indeed, the multiple crises we are witnessing -- energy, political, financial — are signals of a deeper paradigm shift afoot and thus opportunity to rethink, redesign, and reorganize how we live on this planet. I think we have the seeds of solutions already in many disciplines, practices, and principles. The great challenge is synthesis, the challenge is balancing bottom-up and top-down solutions and designs; the challenge is doing so in practical, equitable, and life-giving ways. Let's hope we start this process soon.

Marc Alt

Much attention is rightfully being placed now on energy and carbon policy. I'd like to make a recommendation in the name of design. Design decisions determine the majority of the environmental and social impact of products, services, industry, cities, you name it. In order to tap into the massive potential of design to transform every aspect of how we live on the planet, my recommendation is to establish a National Office of Design.
This office would connect design formally to the policy world and create a market-based, stakeholder-driven, competitive national eco-design standard tied to significant economic and tax incentives. It would benchmark and reward environmental performance and supplier responsibility. Incentivized properly, industry leaders would create a tidal wave of innovation in every sector while fast-tracking massive improvement in the sourcing of labor, materials, resources and energy globally. It would usher in a 21st century industrial revolution, but this time in partnership with the planet.

John Robb

100 words.
Two ideas:
1) The solution to the global financial crisis hinges on the health of the American middle class. Provide them with government sponsored fixed rate mortgages that write down upwards of 30% of principle. Limit interest and fee rates for HELOCs, auto loans, and credit cards.
2) Deescalate Iraq and Afghanistan.

Dina Mehta, Director, Mosoci

"Barack Obama said "We are a better country than this." The world wants to see that. Given how negative America's international image is at present, it can't get worse (I hope!!!). How about taking the stance, "We are a better world than this?" This means no more needless wars, no more greedy deals for oil, no more preaching or denial but engaging Americans to collaboratively work out solutions to regulate carbon emissions, clean energy and climate change.
All this cannot be done in 100 days. Some are tough calls given the current economic crisis. What we don't want to see is popular appeasement measures for the American public– but greater transparency, integrity and interdependence in the new President's selection of his administration and advisors, for America to regain some of the political, economic, ecological, intellectual, moral and humanitarian credibility as a leading nation of the world.

Robert Neuwirth, Journalist and Author

I'd like to say, belatedly, that simply electing Barack Obama would be achievement enough, even if he accomplished nothing in the first 100 days. Not because he's so great, but because it would signal a repudiation of the Bush legacy. On preemptive war, on torture, on black site prisons, on extraordinary rendition, on civil liberties, etc.: U.S. voters would be saying to the world, "No more." And it would be one hell of a sign that 'We Shall Overcome' actually meant something for all of us.

Ramez Naam, Technologist and Author, More Than Human: Embracing the promise of biological enhancement

Think win/win. Recognize globally that America’s problems are larger than America itself.

Photo credit: flickr/webbmb, Creative Commons license.

Read comments