President Obama gave his second State of the Union address before congress this week to mixed reviews. Some found it boring, some found it inspirational, but for me, a large opportunity was missed.
Remembering the fact that this administration has actually accomplished quite a lot in its time so far, no matter how others may spin it, the President shied away from speaking to those accomplishments and focused on where we need improvements and, like most State of the Unions, it was largely filled with the aspirations of the future. While the President did set (sort of) lofty goals for the next 20-25 years and made comparisons of our Nation's shame compared to other countries the like of Russia and South Korea, one of my biggest disappointments with the speech is best summarized by David Roberts of Grist:
In his 2009 State of the Union-esque speech, Obama spoke of "saving our planet from the ravages of climate change." In his 2010 SOTU, he affirmed the "overwhelming scientific evidence on climate change." In 2011, fresh off the hottest year on record, Obama said ... nothing about climate change. It didn't come up.The American people need to recognize that global "competition" for green tech industry and innovation is not just for bragging rights it's for the keys to the future. "He who controls the spice controls the universe," can easily be translated to, "the country who controls the technology that will increase efficiency, decrease pollution and eliminate dependence on oil, controls the future of humanity."
It also needs to be remembered that green tech is not the same as carbon/green house abatement. To truly save the future of our existence on this planet we need to change our habits, our relationship with food, energy and the earth.
I will again admit that the State of the Union had some somewhat lofty goals, such as to switch from fossil fuels to renewable source of energy, producing 80 percent of U.S. electricity from renewable sources by 2035, major investments in mass transportation, giving 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail within 25 years amongst others. But it could be better. Where is the lowering greenhouse gas emissions? Where is the International Climate Treaty? Where is a push for sustainable building and continuing the reinvestment programs?
For those who are not e-mail members of the Obama administration or MoveOn.org, they both were rather aggressive in their post state of the union e-mail push. MoveOn tried to invigorate their base with claims like "progressives aren't yet geared up for the fight" and "Republicans, speaking from a fantasy world where all our problems somehow are the government's fault, essentially laughed at the President's ideas and promised deep, gouging cuts they say will magically get America moving again." Obama's team had a bit more of a bipartisan message with phrasing like; "Overcoming the challenges we face today requires a new vision for tomorrow. We will move forward together, or not at all -- for the challenges we face are bigger than party, and bigger than politics."
Missing from both was any mention of Climate Change. Progressives and Democrats and even some of those on the right need to remember that this is not a fight to be given up on. This is not a candle of hope to let burn out into the night and our focus has to be on ways to improve the economy while prioritizing the global climate.
The mention of "America's Sputnik moment" garnered a lot of attention but it seemed, at least to me (and to some fact checkers) a little weak. Ignoring the fact that it took 4 years to announce our desire to reach the moon and that announcement was more relating to Soviet success in manned space travel, If this was truly a Sputnik moment, there would be massive panic and fear that if we didn't do anything, we will be killed. The immediacy and fear of threat just isn't there anymore. There is no "Green-scare" similar to the "Red-Scare" of the Sputnik era, and it looks like, until 90% of the population can't breath, there wont be.
A really cool aspect of this State of the Union was the amount of observer interaction through social media. Be it instant polling, or online responses, we haven't seen this much social media interaction with politics since Hack the debate. The twitter hashtag #SOTU was exploding during the event and for hours afterwards.
Hopefully the priorities of our country will remained focused not only on job creation and the green tech industry but also on abating Climate Change. One thing is apparent though, through mediums like social media platforms it becomes easier to educate the public and lead to behavior modification that will allow us to sustainably live on this earth. Here's looking at you Future.