Friday, February 10, 2012

YOU are the Architect of the Green Economy

The engineer that just received her green building accreditation; the dad that championed a green school retrofit in his community; the non-profit leader that, for the first time, brought access to energy to part of rural India—each is laying the groundwork for the green economy, which I define as the realization of human, social and environmental well-being through thoughtful investments in sustainable development strategies.

While I embrace the phrase “green economy,” I recognize that this isn’t a clear term for many. The disconnect between our daily lives and the world of international policy is starkly apparent when related news is riddled with sector-specific jargon and acronyms. Despite the natural inclination to ignore the press and outcomes, I ask you to give Rio+20 (the historic summit in June that will champion the green economy and sustainable development) a chance. Though you may not be aware, you may already be contributing to the green economy (which is a good thing). It’s time to band together and embrace the green economy as a rallying cry for the “Future We Want,” the very appropriate theme of the Rio+20 conference.

When you define the economy, jobs, money and GDP may come to mind. Additionally, we assume that the economy is a force that is long-term and self-sustaining. . .sustainable, if you will. I love the dual connotation of sustainability because the environmentally conscious economic decisions that we make facilitate a stable and healthy economy that will stand the test of time. Investments in environmentally and climate sensitive industries create high-quality, long-term jobs, promote innovation and economic competitiveness, while fulfilling environmental and social goals. In this sense, the green economy is the attainment of sustainable development. However, in order to nurture the green economy of the (near) future, we need to make the right policy and investment decisions today. This calls for less apathy and more empathy from each one of us.

For example, adequate housing is a human right which is defined beyond a basic necessity for survival to include social, economic and psychological benefits. Adequate housing should include the environmental and health benefits to which every individual has a right. Green buildings serve these ends while promoting the green economy. At their most elementary level, green buildings are about harnessing low-cost solutions to reduce energy and water use, mitigating negative environmental impacts, and enhancing occupant health and happiness. These goals are achievable in both hemispheres and serve the aims of sustainable development.

The green affordable housing advocate advocate, the non-profit executive, the Peace Corps volunteer, and the environmental blogger, we all support the green economy in our own way. Regardless of your geographic location or economic status, we all have a role to play in the development of the green economy, but we need your help to get there. The outcomes of Rio have implications for each of us and will shape the fate of future generations. I hope you will join me in advocating for strong and just outcomes of the Rio+20 conference and remind our leaders of the “Future We Want.” Through your actions, we will not only achieve a global, green economy, but we will no longer need to call it green.