Saturday, October 27, 2007

California Burned: Advantage Arnie

One thing is for sure. We’re in an era of disasters, many of which are due to urban sprawl and people in places that nature reclaims as its own on a predictable basis. You’d think we’d learn.

But Calgary journalist Chris Turner writes in his uplifting book, The Geography of Hope, we do learn and its time to dream rather than despair. His book is chock full of little stories where people all over the world take the environmental challenge seriously and have come up with all manner of ways to align with Mother Earth or Gaia. They are leaders working on a small scale who believe every individual effort makes a difference and in the long run will make a big difference. They are here in Canada, in Ontario, as much as elsewhere.

History tells us that eventually, a leader positioned to influence policy to find workable solutions meets up with the little “guys”. Could this be the case right now for Arnold Schwarzenegger? He’s astute enough to understand the power of timing: act while “the iron is hot” so to speak.

Long ago, Arnie claimed that the environment was not about the left or the right on the political spectrum. “What works” is more his mantra. Under his leadership, California has instituted advanced policies and programs to assist in stemming the tide of global warming such as those related to carbon emissions. Now he’s faced with another facet: people who are in harm’s way because of not balancing the natural habitat with development.

This is a battle faced in all developed and developing areas of the world every day. The direction that results depends on leadership, for better or worse. Smart local leaders attuned to what’s right not what’s left or right combined with wise and courageous regional leaders are a powerful force.

Because Governor Schwarzenegger is highly goal-oriented and experienced in achieving what the majority think is impossible, I’m betting that he will astonish us with actions that clearly put public safety first. That will mean collaborating with the different factions to protect the natural habitat where it makes sense to do so and make it easy and desirable for developers to build communities that reduce people’s vulnerability.

As Turner says, inventors, investors, visionaries, pioneers and capitalists in all parts of the world are the pace-setters in a sustainability movement that is far ahead of policy. It would be very satisfying to see California under Arnie’s leadership narrowing the gap between policy and pace. It would be an admirable and significant contribution to the nascent sustainability age.

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