Did you miss the “Energizing a Clean Climate Human Impacts Salon? Check out our highlight video here>>
As an environmental nonprofit, the Human Impacts Institute (HII) inspires action for strong communities and a healthy environment. When challenging people to confront their personal environmental impacts, how then can diverse perspectives broaden the discuss and compel us to positive action? As an ongoing program, HII hosts the Human Impacts Salons, which join impressive guests from a range of backgrounds including lawyers, government leaders, religious figures and artists to discuss channels for environmental action in an inspiring and collaborative setting. The operative word of these events is ‘inspire,’ and at this salon in particular hosted by the German Consulate of NYC on June 5th, 2013, guests were inspired by Dr. Georg Maue, First Secretary Climate and Energy Policy of the German Embassy, Josephine Decker, environmental artist, Ben McKelahan, Lutheran Pastor, Phil Aroneau, Co-founder of 350.org, Doug Semmes, Director of New York market of Green Mountain Energy, James Slezak from Purpose.com, and the Human Impacts Institute’s very own Executive Director and Founder, Tara DePorte.
The event lived up to its title, “Energizing a Clean Climate Revolution”–The energy in the room was positive and receptive. As videos and creative messaging guided the Human Impacts Institute curated event, the facilitator, HII’s Tara DePorte guided the conversation with profound, challenging questions. Mr. Aroneau opened the overarching theme of the evening’s discussion by asking, “What risks are we willing to take to deal with the impact of climate change?” As the role model for change makers, Dr. Maue did not respond with the risks to take but instead with the proactive measures that Germany has already taken to combat climate change and mitigate disaster. As Dr. Maue stated, the time to act is now and Germany has recognized by achieving their Kyoto Protocolcommitment which was to reduce emissions by 27% at the 1990 level. Germany’s next goal is to reduce emissions by 80-95% by 2050. Germany’s progress is attributed to their commitment to change, which is a key factor to the success of any climate movement as Dr. Maue indicates.
This commitment may be made by individuals, but to have a large impact a commitment to change must be made on a national level. Here enters the first question, what is the role of policy? The panelists discussed that effective climate change policy must be affordable and safe, as well as providing incentives for the private sector and consider the stakeholder. Who wouldn’t want to partake in policies that encompass so many positive characteristics?
However, before implementing climate policy all constituents needs to be on board. Panelists addressed the issue of how to face climate deniers. The panelists, especially Mr. Aroneau, all agreed that it is no longer “cool” to deny the science indicating climate change. To support the dying nature of climate denial, Dr. Maue was also able to offer an interesting and unique comment for an American audience: how Europe perceives US climate deniers. As some panelists remarked, in the eyes of many non-U.S. communities, it is strange that a country who pushes for personal responsibility, action, and innovation in so many ways, still debates scientific facts and is slow to address climate solutions.
While it seems that the panel has only identified our climate woes, namely being “un-cool” and “strange,” as promised, the panel took an inspirational turn when panelists were asked how to market climate and more importantly, how is action inspired. In terms of marketing, Mr. Semmes of Green Mountain Energy encourages leaders to keep the message simple. To inspire change, the message should be “boiled down to one choice.” If there is a dirty versus a clean option, the clean option is the only one. Look at it from the dirty option. If we rely on coal, oil and gas local and global air pollution ensues along with other climate, political and economic issues. If the clean option is chosen, such as alternative renewable energy implementation, pollution will reduce and energy independence will be achieved. Germany is an example in the “keep it simple” method. Their climate policy is presented as a long term affordable energy supply as well as energy security, which appeals to citizens.
Inspiring change is another crucial aspect to climate and energy progress. Towards the end of the event environmental activist and artist, Josephine Decker showed the audience through performance art how to inspire people to make a change. After her moving piece she explained the audience that encouraging change is a durational effort; There is no beginning and no end, it’s a continual movement.
In a sense, progress in any field is the same: Progress is progress because things keep getting better. So after hearing a government official, two businessmen, a pastor, an artist and an activist discuss change in our society for a safe and sustainable future, how do you think the climate story is going to end? And What are your next Human Impacts going to be?
By Ani Esenyan, 2013 Environmental Services Intern, Human Impacts Institute