November 9th, 2008
Jacob Udell Student Middlebury College Middlebury, VT 05753
Dear President-Elect Obama,
Congratulations on your amazing campaign, it is inspiring and exciting to be a young person at this crucial point in history. I likely do not need to remind you of your acceptance speech, but I found this quote to be especially moving, “This victory alone is not the change we seek; it is only the chance for us to make that change.”
Remember that quote. Please don’t be a president who creates policy with another campaign and election in sight- you promised us more than that. It would probably be most popular to focus solely on the economy. It would be easy to achieve the relatively low expectations of climate change policy that most of our country desires and leave it at that. But the world needs more than the status quo. Instead, focus on the fact that in 2012, at the end of next four years of your presidency, we will have reached the deadline for fundamental changes in global environmental policy (Rajendra K. Pachauri, Chairman of IPCC). If we wait much longer than that, it will have been too late.
In your speech, as well as your first press conference as President-Elect, that change was urgently stated in relation to the dire economic situation happening right now. You called for a stimulus package – great. It is the logical first step in giving people the security they desperately need; we know that our economy needs to bounce back. But we also know that Wall Street alone can’t protect us from the change in climate that would lead to sinking coastlines and famine in the poorest regions of the world. So how do we get Americans to commit to serious changes to save our planet if they can’t even save enough money to send their children to college? The solution is simple – use the implementation of a green economy as the stimulus package. It can be the first step towards the change we seek.
Make the economic stimulus package your starting point. Enact a package that creates “green collar jobs”, as activist Van Jones calls it. Stimulus packages, by definition, need the trading of more goods and services in order to survive. What better way to ensure that than by directing the country to exploit the mostly untapped industry of environmentally sustainable energy? There is so much possibility. It ranges from development of alternative clean energy to retrofitting homes for energy efficiency. The increase in spending and trading can’t come without job security and opportunities for growth. The creation of an entirely new sector of the market will stimulate that.
If the stimulus plan is enacted in this way, the change that has been bubbling inside us for the last twenty-one months can truly begin. Not only would the plan bolster the economy, but it would also help move our country towards the only global warming solution that can save our planet – a cap and share plan. A cap and share plan requires trust, trust that Americans will be willing to deal with higher gas and heating prices and receive compensation only at the end of each year. But because of the last eight years, we Americans are jaded. Even with a new administration, there is doubt that the government can actually make a carbon tax economically feasible for the average citizen. What a successful environmentally focused stimulus plan would do is give people more trust in the viability of environmentally friendly policy. Upon the momentum and benefits of a “green collar” stimulus package, Americans would be more willing to take the hit of a carbon tax.
A working cap and share program would be an amazing change in the way our country’s economy functions. But as you saw in rallies from Kenya to Japan, the decisions of your presidency will reverberate far greater than California or New York. It is obvious, Mr. Obama, that you have the ability to inspire the global change at an unprecedented rate. During your campaign, you created a movement of motivated people, especially youth, in numbers and strength never before seen. Use your rhetoric and legislation to inspire a global movement on climate change – validate the notion that we really can save the world. Fight against energy production from the most dangerous fossil fuels, such as coal, not through blind power but through instilling a need to search for common ground. If you lead the fight against global warming solutions as well as you are capable, the same world that celebrated so ecstatically on November 5th will follow.
But more importantly, we will follow you all the way to Copenhagen in 2009, our last chance to let the earth breathe again. We CAN achieve success there. It all starts with a green stimulus package for our economy that would set the tone for how you’ll lead, and hopefully save, the free world. Understand the urgency of this situation deeply. Though decisions may at times be unpopular, if you make them with our best interests in mind we will be behind you. Please, be that change which we all seek from you in these next four years.
Sincerely, Jacob Udell