By Tina Jepson
Bill Clinton, the 42nd president of the United States, has played a significant role in shaping “green,” environmentally-friendly regulations and practices since he was in office from 1993 to 2001. Ever since then, he has continued to focus on these issues through his work with the Clinton Foundation. Because of his devotion to the industry and the large role he’s played in helping boost the funding and support for green practices, it was no surprise that he was asked to speak as the plenary speaker during the 2017 Greenbuild Expo and Conference in Boston, Massachusetts.
Throughout the hour-long speech, President Bill Clinton came back to a number of points that inspired the audience of architects, engineers, builders, and other representatives spanning the entire green building industry. By artfully skirting any hot, taboo topics or overtly aggressive political undertones, the former president was able to build a sense of unity among the participants.
To be in attendance during this speech was a special, once-in-a-lifetime experience. Here are some of the takeaways that apply to anyone interested in helping both the environment and the economy:
Cooperation is Better than Conflict
When it comes to renewable energy and sustainability, it’s quite hard NOT to be political in today’s conflict-ridden climate. At the very beginning of his speech, Clinton stressed the importance of cooperation over partisanship.
He urged putting political parties and expectations aside and encouraged change-makers to take action “based on evidence.” He further clarified this: “At every age in time, going back to the beginning of the first families in Africa, the whole history of humanity is the slow, steady ride of cooperation based on the best-known facts. We’re imperfect human beings that all make mistakes who are trying to do what is best.”
And that’s what he encouraged the audience to do: Make decisions based on what’s best and not what’s comfortable.
Keeping the Facts in Mind
We’ve come a long way since we began focusing on renewables and sustainability. Even in the past 10 years, the industry has seen an influx of technology that supports this shift. Of course, the road toward an energy model that is 100% renewable is bound to be rocky at times, the Clinton noted.
Clinton said there will be hurdles to overcome, both political, economic, and social. After all, the shift toward “green” isn’t just a single change, it’s a transformation of how we live and power our lives.
But the best way to handle these barriers and setbacks is to keep going back to the facts. Clinton noted the native communities throughout Alaska and Scandinavia, most of which are experiencing the devastating impacts of climate change, including muddy, sinking roads and polar bears (eek!) trespassing into areas they would never have needed to be near before. His message in relaying this information wasn’t to discourage or depress but to inform. There’s no denying this is an issue, he told us. We just have to remember the facts. It’s these facts that will guide our actions moving forward.
“There are no permanent victories and no permanent defeats in human affairs, “ Clinton explained. The most important thing we can all do is keep in mind HOW we think. When we rely on facts to make our decisions, Clinton assured the crowd that we can and will do the right thing in the end.
The Takeaway: Model the World You Want to Live in
Above all, Clinton encouraged everyone in attendance to keep on with their work. “You don’t get discouraged and that’s important, not just in conquering climate change, but to preserving the democracy of our country,” he told the crowd.
He commended those in the crowd who devote their lives to the environment. “You sit there year after year, dealing with evidence, putting it together. You’re proving what you do is good economics and good for the environment.”
One of the best points of the speech was related to action. Clinton stressed that everything we all do, whether big or small, helps the bigger picture. “This is a problem we can fix, together. It’s one of the greatest opportunities we’ll ever have to support jobs and to do so in a way that reaches every corner of America.”
But don’t worry, he doesn’t expect any one person to fix it all. “Don’t be foolish to thank that if you can’t do everything, you can’t do something. Just model the world you want to live in. And that, you can do.”
A better world for those we love most? That’s a cause we can all get behind!
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