Here on the right side of history

Friday, February 15th, 2013

“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

President Barack Obama had his choice of topics to be included in his State of the Union address earlier this week. You can bet his phone rings constantly in the weeks leading up to the address, as special interest groups jockey for mention. So the significance of the President’s focus on climate change and a clean energy future can’t be overstated. He chose this moment in world history to ensure that all sides of the debate are clear on his intention to address what is arguably the single greatest threat to our economy, our natural resources, and oh yeah – our survival.

But not everyone wants to act now. There will be time later for change, right? And some flat out deny there is a problem with our climate to begin with. These voices choose to ignore the overwhelming scientific evidence, reinforced in public perception by yet another “storm or drought or flood of the century”, much preferring the cozy gauze of their comfortable status-quo cocoon.

“But if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will,” the President declared. “I will direct my Cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.”

Social media buzzed north of the border as supporters of renewable energy tried to imagine what it would be like to have a shared vision in Canada. People shared ideas for real, concrete actions to address the devastating climate change impacts of fossil-fuels. Studies and reports were cited, illustrating a lack of leadership on the climate file by many developed nations. Someone flipped me a quote from a recent report by the World Wildlife Fund for Nature: “The spiraling economic, social and environmental cost of our current energy system, and the looming threat of climate change disaster, flip the burden of proof: anything other than sustainable renewables used efficiently should now have to justify their existence … ”

Political rhetoric is great for quoting in 120-character spurts. Studies and reports are necessary to substantiate that which those in denial would prefer to ignore or, worse, spin to their own purposes. At the end of the day, it takes people to make change. It takes people who are ahead of the curve, people with vision and an internal compass that ceaselessly drives them, people who don’t tire of the negativity and ridiculous misinformation spewed by opponents.

I’ve been extremely fortunate over the past few years to meet some people who fit that bill. They have names like Don and Meredith, Gary and Marie, Jutta and Paul, Mike, Jenna, Madison, David, Ken … They hold day jobs but spend their free time – evenings or a few hours squeezed in between the laundry – doing what they can to advance the cause of a cleaner future. They write letters, they blog, they Tweet, they drive through snow storms to attend information events. They are not paid for their work in advocating a renewable energy future. They simply believe down to their very core that bringing reliable and cost-effective renewable energy into our electricity system is a real action that will net real results.

Unlike so many who wait for the next person to stand up, these strong but few put into practice President Obama’s new tagline: “I will act”.

I’m proud to know these incredible characters, and I’m proud to stand here with them on the right side of history.

– Chris Forrest, Vice-President, Communications, CanWEA