It’s hard to dismiss former United States President Barack Obama’s impact. He has been instrumental in altering our view of world leaders and influencing how modern politicians interact and communicate with us. Whether you’re a big supporter or not, it is undeniable that he has delivered some of the most socially and environmentally progressive policies in the US, despite many of them being retracted by the current administration.
Since his retirement from office, Obama has continued to speak on some of the most pressing global issues today, from sustainability to leadership. At the recent Greenbuild Conference, the former president shared his views about climate change, and if that gets you excited, here’s some of the highlights from his conversation with US Green Building Council’s president Mahesh Ramanujam.
1. Climate Change Is Today’s Biggest Existential Threat
Obama made sure to underline that climate change is the single global issue that we need to focus on right now before “it becomes irreversible” and before it is “too late”. Unlike other issues like tax policies, he points out, our climate emergency is something that can’t be corrected in the future, so it poses an existential threat. To the former president, there is “no issue that is more urgent than that.” We couldn’t agree more.
2. Climate Change & Inequality Are Interrelated
He also links it to national and global inequality – to him, solving our ecological crisis goes hand in hand with solving economic and social disparities. “It is hard to figure out how we solve sustainability issues and climate change if you also have huge gaps in wealth and opportunity and education,” he remarks. Inequality not only hampers our sense of politics and community, it puts a dent in the tracks of a collective, concerted effort to fight our most urgent planetary issue.
3. Sustainability Needs Affordability
This means that if we are to effectively work towards sustainability, which needs a broad collective base of support, we need to make it accessible to everyone. In other words, it needs to be affordable in order to “get enough pick up.” Obama enlists a current example: there is no low-income housing or middle-class housing available in modern areas due to the way sustainable building codes have been constructed, which makes people resentful of green buildings. So we need to get over this hurdle of affordability and make it available to every person to get a real push to a greener world.
4. Our Consumer Culture Is Killing The Planet
The former US president points out that while all these new energy-efficient and planet-friendly technologies, our carbon emissions just keep rising. The problem is something that is “larger” and “cultural” – overconsumption is undercutting all these efforts to fight climate change. We need to start asking ourselves: “How much is enough?”
5. Motivate Action Through People-Connecting Stories
Despite being a “fact guy,” Obama says that what really “moves people is stories and connection.” Especially at a time “where we feel more disconnected” from each other than ever before, getting everyone’s hands on deck to fight our climate crisis will require using stories which “connect to people’s sense of place”. To do this, Obama says we need to really listen to people and get a real sense of how to motivate them to act for the planet.
Lead image courtesy of Oscar & Associates.