Promoting a climate safe economy through online political activism.
By Adam Zoltowski
In December, CATALYST Strategic Design Review will publish its second issue: Designing Climate Safe Economies. The issue explores how environmentally sustainable business practices reinvigorate our economic models. As the climate crisis grows worse, we must incorporate new uses of technology to educate, engage and empower the populace to affect change on this issue. Repower America, a website launched to help combat climate change, does exactly this. It uses the Internet to provide concerned citizens, activists and companies with a platform to create a concert of opinions on the ever-worsening crisis. It is a new form of political activism, one without picket lines and teargas, which embraces technology to communicate to lawmakers and the country that utilizing environmentally safe practices is not only the moral thing to do, but that it is also the most economically viable and patriotic thing to do for America.
The site, founded by The Alliance for Climate Protection, was inspired by Vice President Al Gore’s 2008 speech in which he correlated our need to reset our energy plan with our economic and national security. Repower America makes the argument that a new energy plan will create new jobs and stimulate the economy as well as protect the planet for future generations. It stands for “clean, renewable and diversified energy sources; a unified national smart energy grid that connects these renewable energy sources to every part of the country.” The site successfully brings together many who are concerned about the crisis through engagement, education and empowerment.
The most impressive feature of the site is the Repower America Wall, a virtual mosaic of videos, photos and opinions from citizens, celebrities and corporations alike. The submissions range from Stephen Hawking to Jesse Jackson Jr., to the CEO of Ebay, John Donahoe. There are also a plethora of submissions from everyday citizens, expressing a multitude of views on the issue.
Most notable among these videos is a submission from Bill Nye, who addresses the need for a climate change plan in its simplest terms. He describes in detail how a new economy based on sustainable energy could once again make America the prosperous country it was for many years. He stresses the need to innovate for economic reasons, as well as environmental ones. Additionally, he emphasizes the importance of math and science in equipping the world to initiate innovative change. What is there to gain from having our money in overseas energy sources? How does this create a stable economy or a peaceful political landscape? Nye’s answer is neither.
Nye also makes it abundantly clear that global warming is happening, whether America wants it to or not. It’s not going to wait for us to get our act together. Having recently read Innovation Nation by John Kao, this point resonated greatly with me. If America is not the country to lead this change, another country will be. They, not us, will reap the economic benefit of changing the world and we will be left behind playing catch-up.
By re-framing the global climate crisis as one of domestic economic and political concern, Repower America is providing new insight into global warming and why it should matter to American citizens. The site offers information on policy, current media reports and other educational tools such as ways to change personal behaviors towards reducing global warming.
Repower America offers a place for people to not only share ideas but to communicate directly with government to help affect change. Through the site, people can sign petitions, send letters to congressmen and also find events to attend. It provides a centralized location for people to gather on the issue of global warming and a means to communicate their thoughts and opinions. Any visitor to the site can submit a video or thought to the wall, giving them a voice that otherwise would have been overlooked.
Repower America is using a new form of activism on an issue that desperately requires action. People don’t take to the streets as much in my generation. But they blog, twitter and update their facebook status on a regular basis, so what better way to sway opinion than the through web? It has the capacity of bringing together everyday citizens and corporations in unison on the largest issue of our time to let others know ‘this is happening, and we need to do something about it’. This is not a matter of left versus right, or environmentalism versus capitalism. It is an issue of economic and national security, and a problem that can no longer be ignored.