Dear President-Elect Obama,
As I write to you this day after the most exciting election in my 43 years, I want to thank you. You have inspired not only the people of the United States but of the entire world. You weave a beautiful story of hope for people who have become tired and cynical and jaded by political rhetoric.
Here are some of my hopes.
I hope that while we’re talking of “restoring prosperity” and “putting our people back to work” we’re also working to change the fundamental basis on which prosperity is measured. Is the American Dream the pursuit of newer and bigger houses and cars and the latest gadgets? Higher consumption of the earth’s resources? Is that what healing the economy means?
Or can we change our language to encourage deeper American values? Voluntary simplicity? Sustainable living? Connections among people over material wealth? The world cannot afford for us to continue trashing the planet as we have been. And as someone with the great ability to use words to inspire hope and change, you are in a unique position to change the course of our imaginations and help us redefine how we measure prosperity.
We need jobs, of course. Let’s make them green and inclusive of all segments of society. Van Jones has offered a beautiful plan in his book, The Green Collar Economy. Let’s create an economy that measures not only dollars in the bank but also the satisfaction that one’s work is helping to sustain life on the planet.
We want to feel secure, of course. Let’s create the security of knowing that we are not creating a terrible mess today for our children to deal with tomorrow. To that end, I urge you to attend the U.N. Climate meetings in Poland this December and promise that the U.S. will lead the way in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and helping other developing nations to do the same.
We all want access to healthcare. Let’s also take care of the health of our planet, which ultimately affects the health of us all. Right now, there is an area in the North Pacific Ocean greater than the size of Texas that is filled with plastic. Marine researchers describe it as a “plastic soup.” And the plastic didn’t just come from vessels dumping their waste at sea. No, the plastic comes from you and me and everyone who has ever used and thrown away plastic products.
Plastic lasts forever. It mimics food for multitudes of marine animals who eat the plastic and feed it to their young. It migrates up the food chain into the fish that we ourselves eat, including toxic chemicals that accumulate on its surfaces. Plastic is a great invention and can also be a great threat to the healthcare and security of humans and animals on this planet.
Thousands and thousands of individuals are working to make changes in our own lives to protect the earth, to consume less, and to choose less toxic alternatives, like avoiding plastics, but we are not enough to solve these types of environmental problems. We need our government to hold companies responsible for the full life cycles of the products they produce, we need stricter regulations against toxic products, and we also need a national mindset that encourages consumers to cut back on disposable products and look to what is durable and energy-efficient and timeless.
Protecting the planet is about more than cutting emissions, although that seems to be the big focus of the moment. We also need to cut our consumption and change our priorities. As president, you can set policies in that direction. But we also need you to use your powerful skills of language to light up our minds and show us the value in simple, sustainable, compassionate living.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all you have done so far and all you will do in the next four years. You’ve asked me to hope. Some of my hope is in your hands.
Elizabeth G. Terry
i have only recently heard that phrase green collar but really like the significance it can bring to a sector of like-minded forward thinking people – you have framed your version of hope and so much potential beautifully
“We need jobs, of course. Let’s make them green and inclusive of all segments of society.”
I whole-heartedly agree! Instead of trying to patch up industries of the past, let’s be proactive in creating jobs in evolving industries!
Beth – this is wonderful. I stand up and applaud all your efforts to speak out and say what’s in your heart – and many others also! I know your words will be heard! Corbina
Oh, ditto there. Good stuff in your leter. Shannon
Wonderful letter. You put into such clear language so many thoughts and hopes that swirl around in my own mind.
Slap my name on the bottom too. So well written, Beth.
Dear Beth and all FakePlasticFishAmericans
I am proud to be your neighbour and ashamed of our own little Bush cornie, Harper. Here's to hope!
Love & RRRevolution, Tracey
Muy bueno, Beth.
I woke up today after the election and wrote a brainstorm to get government support for passive energy housing. Though after this election I titled it “National Home Energy Independence .. act ? need? initiative. . then I thought I must be one of a thousand people who are thinking the same and tried to find others in government and the non-profit sector thinking along the same lines as I was. Thanks for your blog. How can we join together and wake up government about the need for greener building codes? .. oh? yes this does related to plastics .. google garbage and home building/construction. :D
Thanks for saying what so many of us want to say but couldn’t quite put into words. Let’s get this letter in Obama’s hands!
Idealism. That’s what your post shows. I share it with you and I think most of your readers do too.
By idealism, I mean the appreciation of things that are not in one’s hand, that are not immediately evident. The Pacific gyre that you mentioned is a perfect example. 99.99% of humanity will never go there. Yes, we can see it on video but that is nothing like living in contact with it. It remains an idea we hold in our minds whose force must be strong enough to deter a simple thing like using and tossing a plastic bag – a seeming trifle.
In like manner, we in urban America don’t see the price paid by the other residents of the earth for what we do, whether they be human or not.
I’m not at all sure that most would not literally trade the earth for things they can buy, hold and use immediately and, more to the point, the prospect of more beguiling stuff in the future.
Enlightening experiences such as those you’ve had in nature are unfortunately far too rare and, for many, virtually unavailable because they cannot see the possibility all around them.
Economic collapse and the loss of the ability to afford to increase the size of one’s ecological footprint may do more to save the natural world than good intentions, as strongly as I encourage those intentions and support them with my own efforts.
Think of the ancient Mayan civilization, completely recaptured by nature in lush jungle. History offers many examples of such collapse and none of the triumph of environmentalism on more than a local level. Let’s be the first civilization to make the ideal real. Action on global warming by individuals at a personal level would be an encouraging start.
Beautifully written, Beth. And if you’re adding names to it, slap mine on there too. :-)
I echo Arya!
Seriously, very , very well put.
Will I see you on January 20th? We’re going to have to have a Green Tweet-up! :)
Dis iz 1 uv best poasts u evver rited. we r proud 2 B ur kittehs. we luvz Obama 2. we can has hope? we can has change? yes we canz! lol.
Great letter, I would sign my name to it too! I hope that there is healing on all sides of the fence, and we can get together and work on solutions to this country’s problems. Well said, thank you!
Well said. I hope that you did send it to him by hard copy or email.
Nice work! :)
You did it again, Beth! Made me tear up. Can I sign my name to this too?
My desparate hope and sincere belief is that Obama will lead us in a new direction. He talks of making sacrifice. Of the importance of the civic duty.