Blogs > Sara Gutterman > October 2012 > Silent "Fall"

Silent "Fall"

I am astounded by the conspicuous absence of any mention of climate change in the recent Presidential debates (this was the first time climate change was not discussed in a set of Presidential debates since 1988). The science is irrefutable, and both President Obama and Governor Romney have publicly recognized that climate change is real, is in part caused by human activity, and is an issue that will have a significant impact on our future.

It seems intuitive that the candidates would find some way to leverage this topical issue for political expediency, augmenting their plans for national security and wooing essential moderate swing voters (especially since a recent poll by Yale and George Mason Universities indicated that 80 percent of undecided voters believe that global warming is happening, two thirds believe that the federal government should do more to address climate change, and 61 percent say it's an important issue they consider when voting for president.)

Unfortunately, when it comes to scenario planning for our current and future environmental realities, this campaign appears to be a competition of avoidance rather than an opportunity to exhibit real leadership.

Given that both candidates are highly intelligent and educated—they’re not ignorant about the state of our planet, even though they’re playing it on TV—I can’t help but speculate about the root of the problem. Perhaps the lack of political will to claim climate change as a legitimate and crucial issue is not only attributable to pusillanimous politicians, but also to an overtly complacent general public? Is the deafening silence on the topic due to politicians’ skepticism, or because voters don’t want to hear a difficult message?

The entire topic of climate change is disturbing, and often the issues that make us most uncomfortable are the very ones that we try hardest to ignore. Ultimately, people will only galvanize to action if one of two things happen: either a catastrophic environmental event will occur, or a strong leader will emerge who has the credibility, charisma, and courage to tackle the issue. That leader will not only have to reach across aisles to mollify Washington, but also across oceans to unify nations and garner international cooperation for curbing carbon emissions and resource use.

One of the essential ingredients of the American Dream is the ability to manifest what we see—to bring our dreams to life —so that each and every one of us can become a hero. With the flavor and tenor of today’s political discourse, I am convinced more than ever that our era’s greatest heroes won’t come from the public sector, but rather from the private one.

Creating realistic strategies to deal with climate change is not a partisan issue open for raging debate. As stewards of the planet, developing effective environmental solutions is a human responsibility.

It’s clear that our approach to the future needs to be updated, beginning with what we each manifest in the world, extending into our work lives, and then, hopefully, permeating all the way into our public policy. As distinguished environmental educator and author David Orr said, “The planet does not need more ‘successful’ people. But it does desperately need more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of every shape and form. It needs people who live well in their places. It needs people of moral courage willing to join the fight and make the world habitable and humane. And these needs have little to do with success as our culture has defined it.”

What do you think we can do to bring awareness about climate change and environmental realities to the forefront of our social, economic, and political discourse? Write to me at or follow me on Twitter @SaraGBM.

For more information about green building and sustainable living, visit, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter at @greenbuildermag and @VISIONHouseGBM for regular updates and breaking news.

Posted: 10/25/2012 9:40:12 AM by Mary Kestner | with 0 comments

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