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Willing to Change?

With battering hurricanes and raging wildfires from coast to coast, one would think that our nation would be clamoring to increase the safety, resiliency, and independence of our built environment. Unfortunately, it’s unclear how open we are to learning from these disasters, changing our approach, and rebuilding with resiliency in mind.

Only partway through historic hurricane and wildfire seasons, the verdict is still out about how willing we are to respond to climate change, build more responsibly, and curb our use of fossil fuels.

Hurricanes and other extreme weather events have been exacerbated by increasing global temperatures (warmer air can hold more moisture, thereby intensifying storms), and wildfires have been amplified by widespread drought conditions.  These disasters, increasing in frequency and intensity, have become an unwelcome reality.

Across the globe, communities within 15 miles of coastlines, which currently account for over 50% of the world’s population, are being ravaged by these intensified super storms, storm surges, flooding, and rising sea levels. 

Southern and eastern cities in the U.S. are becoming all too familiar with a new, and very uncomfortable, normal.  And despite the immense anguish that Harvey, Irma, raging fires, and other cataclysmic events have inflicted across the U.S., we, as an affluent nation with resources to support decimated communities, are in much better shape than many other nations. 

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Consider countries like India, Bangladesh, and Nepal (which, in just the last three weeks, experienced massive flooding that affected over 40 million people and caused 1,200 deaths), beleaguered by inadequate infrastructure, faltering economies, and extreme poverty, that have no mechanism to cope with or respond to the increasing frequency and intensity of natural disasters.    

Both nationally and abroad, it’s clear that our best—and perhaps only remaining—option to mitigate the impact of climate change is to completely overhaul our economic system.  For, in truth, it simply isn’t possible to create a sustainable future if we continue to measure ourselves by how much we consume. 

The required next steps are obvious: transition to 100% renewable energy and non-polluting vehicles, cease all burning of fossil fuels for fuel and energy uses, mandate resiliency and efficiency in homes and buildings, place a tax on carbon and other pollutants, remain wholly committed to the Paris Agreement, facilitate business practices that lead to emissions drawdown and environmental regeneration, and ramp up public education. 

While the writing on the wall is crystal clear, the unfortunate reality is that we’re simply not paying ample attention or allocating enough resources to achieve this type of massive mid-course correction. 

The urgent calls from recent clustered disasters may hold our nation’s attention long enough to moderately impact policy—perhaps a municipality will add a mandate for more resiliency here or prevent future development in wetlands and floodplains there—but the unfortunate reality is that the inertia of our system will continue to place profits and political posturing over common sense and resiliency, preventing our nation from developing a comprehensive, effective climate action plan.

When it comes to dealing with our changing climate, playing the long-game is no longer a viable solution.  It’s much too late to be conservative.    

If you’d like to take part in developing an actionable plan for developing smart, clean, efficient, and resilient solutions, please join Green Builder Media and the City of Orlando at our upcoming Sustainability Symposium: Champions of Change on January 8, 2018 at the University of Central Florida campus in Orlando, Florida.  The event will directly and honestly confront the reality of climate change—the challenge of our generation, and the opportunity of a lifetime.

Click here for more information about the Sustainability Symposium 2018: Champions of Change.  Space is limited, to be sure to reserve your seat today!  Register before September 29 using the code EarlyBird to receive a $100 discount.

How do you think we can achieve a complete overhaul of our system? Write to me at sara.gutterman@greenbuildermedia.com.

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