Fall In TreeHuggers: Obama's Environmental Suggestion Box Is Full


"Suggestions" Box Outside Oval Office, by Clay Bennett, Bennett Archive.

What self respecting green blog doesn't have up a post or five listing all the tactical things that 'Obama Should Do' or 'Obama Should Undo?' "Which ones?" indeed.

The many self-referencing blog lists and op pieces on 'what Obama should do' are so similar, it's as if a mind virus has taken over the self-appointed spokespersons of all things environmental.

The cure is mass inoculation by strategy serum: strongly indicated for the young and, you know, those kind of environmentalists who were powerfully argued to be "dead" a few years ago but didn't get the message. (See "Dissecting Environmentalism: An Interview with Adam Werbach" for perspective.)Truth is, Obama's transition staff had their own list for months and we're not likely to change it. The new Administration will reverse or replace or modify what they can, and we can't take credit.

Regulatory Demands Can Have Unintended Consequences
If tactical lists of favorite regulations to promulgate and past executive decisions to "fix" is all what our loosely formed green machine has to say, then we can fully expect those who still use "Tree Hugger" as a pejorative term to mock us with our own irrelevance.

Think About How The Environmental Demands Sound To "Swing Voters"
Only a tiny fraction of US voters have even heard of or care about the issues on these "to do" lists. Pushing the tactic of 'reversal' sounds pretty partisan to those are outside the beltway battle-front or who don't know what the items are about; and it sure doesn't seem very visionary to be pushing a interest group point of view on a mandate decided by the once "undecideds," from whom Obama will need continuing support in 2009.

Talking up arcane reversal tactics makes environment a wedge issue for Congress. Vision and Strategy are what we need to be looking for, thinking about, and playing off.

What is Strategy?

Strategy is a long term plan of action designed to achieve a particular goal, most often "winning." Strategy is differentiated from tactics or immediate actions with resources at hand by its nature of being extensively premeditated, and often practically rehearsed. Strategies are used to make the problem easier to understand and solve.

I'll leave with an example of why strategy is so important.

Pushing tactics before strategy poses a serious risk.
Arguing that it is a priority for USEPA to regulate C02 as a critical pollutant is one of the tactical ideas that I've been seeing pushed heavily in the blogo-sphere and somewhat in op eds.

Unintended International Consequences
The dunderheaded-ness of pushing a Dead Environmentalism approach to move the pendulum back - see post on The Pendulum Effect for explanation - doesn't really sink in until you think about it in terms the need for a tightened Kyoto Convention, and a Congress in 2009 that must be engaged in the lead-up to the Copenhagen meeting of 'the Convention Parties'.

Most nations don't have enforceable permit limits that work like those we have in the US. How would that look to the rest of the world community if by our example we infer they need a system of laws and agencies like the US has? Talk about unilateral attitude.

State-SIde Effects of Pushing C02 Permit Limits Not So Good Either
Making regulating C02 emissions on industry permits a top, early Obama Administration priority - especially putting it in front of a cap and trade regime - will have the unintended consequence of keeping many in industry from supporting a shared climate action vision.

Tough talk on permit changes will force energy-intensive industry sectors into a defensive mode in the first days of a new Administration, and reinforce the tendency to favor "off-shoring" factory jobs, including many we'd agree are "green." (Examples:- the manufacturing of solar photovoltaic cells, wind turbine parts, and Lithium batteries are energy intensive.)

Flash forward three months.
US industry trade groups draw a line in the sand over C02 limits on renewed permits for existing factories, suing to stall implementation - in the middle of an economic crisis, while auto makers are laying off millions. Nothing gets done - the C02 permit regulation initiative drags on in court for years.

Was there a better way based on changing the sequence of initiatives? That's what strategy is all about. Strategy is not found in the suggestion box.

Looking To 2009 For Positive Change
When at last goats are being shoe'd out of the cabbage patch, everyone must help build a new corral around the commons. Leadership drives that by stating a vision that most people will identify with and become excited about supporting.

Suggestion for environmentalists: keep your eyes on strategy signals from the new Administration; and, if you really must produce favorite "to do" lists, then at least show us that there's more than one plausible future direction that your list "works" in.

This is where TreeHugger normally includes links to related topics in our archive. By choice - this one time only - I instead refer to an example of where strategic tone has been taken. For this, see Obama's Energy Policy: Listening When We Disagree at the Oil Drum.

Fall In TreeHuggers: Obama's Environmental Suggestion Box Is Full
What self respecting green blog doesn't have up a post or five listing all the tactical things that 'Obama Should Do' or 'Obama Should Undo?' "Which ones?" indeed.