Subject: Green Is Good
Dear [Elected Official]:
Every election cycle we relearn the old truth that all politics is ultimately local. So is all behavior change when you get right down to it.
The fight for clean-energy needs is not about federal legislation or government mandates. It’s about changing behaviors so people can help themselves. Government has a long and noble history of doing this. Americans didn’t become sensitive to the dangers of forest fires because a law decreed it. Smokey the Bear—that great federal ad campaign—did the job just fine. Similarly, government marketing programs at all levels have turned the tide against cigarette smoking far more than any combination of federal mandates, and state and local laws. No adult is forbidden from buy- ing cigarettes, but education and advertising programs have given us Americans the power of informed choice when it comes to tobacco.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was an enormously important piece of legislation, but what changed people’s perceptions was the community organizing of Martin Luther King Jr. and others. That’s what got people asking: Why can’t we all sit at the same lunch counter and use the same water fountain? Those changed perceptions ultimately changed behavior in a way that no law itself could have done.
We can do the same thing with clean energy, and we must. The interest in clean energy doesn’t perk up because Big Brother commands us to be interested in clean energy. It perks up because a fellow Lion’s Club member or book-club buddy or Sunday School teacher is suddenly thinking about putting solar on her house.
I urge you to put the clean-energy push on the ground where it belongs. Help volunteer groups go door-to-door, neighborhood to neighborhood, community to community so they can show people the hows and whys of clean energy. Give clean energy the chance to sell itself, and you’ll be doing more than spreading renewables, you’ll be creating jobs for contractors and sales- men, and conditioning the next generation of Americans to clean-energy solutions.
Brian F. Keane