The presidents want to look beyond the paradigm of top down solutions. As Gov. Huntsman of Utah explicitly put it during his address to the participants, "Many of the solutions we are finding in Utah are coming from local government."
As the government closest to the people, our cities and our counties are by necessity looking for efficiencies in the face of rising costs and dwindling resources. They also seek opportunities to protect their precious "livability index," which is so necessary in today's world since people can live and work anywhere.
The underlying theme of the Energizing Conference was the sense of both the urgency and the enormity of our problem. The keynote speaker was none other than Thomas Friedman who wrote "The World is Flat," and has now stepped into the arena of energy and environment. "Hot, Flat and Crowded," the title of his latest book, tells the story of what we will be if we do not address environmental issues now.
He beats his drum loudly as he puts it because of the urgency of the situation. He beats it because he uniquely can do so. In his call for a recognition that this crisis exceeds that of just the single issue of an energy crisis, he calls for an ET (energy technology) revolution much like that of the IT (information technology) revolution of years back. He calls for a return to American ingenuity that is unrivaled in the world so long as we do not lose our nerve. We can do this. We can create energy and environmental solutions and once again lead the world in innovation. But, he warns, it won't be without pain.
We cannot afford "any more Americans" who use an inordinate amount of energy through houses that are outsized and cars that guzzle gas while settling for magazine-inspired top 10 ways to save the earth. It will take pain to get real gain. It will take becoming more informed and making choices that may change our lifestyle.
It will take listening to our young people who as always are on the vanguard of change. As my son announced his desire not to have a baby shower for the impending birth of my first grandchild, I had to take a deep breath. "I don't want new stuff," he said, "There are plenty of used things around that will do." But in the end, I listen and rethink my ways.
If we don't, we may doom that grandchild and others to a world we would not want and will not want for them.
We move forward to the next energy conference in April where we will discuss how we can have an impact on our education community to take up the charge. It is an ambitious agenda, but much needs to happen now and in the near future to seize a moment that is upon us.
Sylvia L. Lovely is the executive director/CEO of the Kentucky League of Cities and president of the NewCities Institute. She currently serves as chairperson of the Morehead State University Board of Regents. Please contact Sylvia or read her blog at sylvia.newcities.org.