A sustainable future: politics papering over the issues?

About 10 years ago I attended a meeting of the major papermaking groups of the United States and Canada in New York City.

What I heard there persuaded me to set up my own small business to promote sustainability in the paper, printing and packaging industries of the USA.

Since then I have spoken in more than 40 states and 60 cities across the country to consumers, paper manufacturers and printers, paper merchants and packaging companies about sustainability.

In the last year, I have spent a good deal of time researching and speaking with universities and colleges about their sustainability programs particularly as they may apply to the consumption of paper and print and also because, as future managers of commerce and industry, university students represent a critical market for those industries.

In the United States, 700 universities and colleges are signatories to what is known as the American Colleges and Universities Presidents Climate Commitment [ACUPCC]. Fundamentally signatories to this program are committed to reducing their greenhouse gas emission levels to zero, by the year 2020.

In most cases the Universities are focused internally, as of course they should be, in the way that the faculty and students behave toward sustainable issues. Some of the great universities in America such as  Harvard, Yale, Princeton and others, have genuinely outstanding sustainability goals and achievements already in place.

Interestingly enough this is also true of many small community colleges across the nation and is not dissimilar in concept and technique to the way that many of America’s greatest commercial organizations have approached the issue of sustainability as well. I will write in more detail about higher education sustainability programs in future articles.

In the United States, climate change, which many people see under the umbrella of ‘global warming’, has become like almost everything else, a political issue.

In other words, if you are skeptical about it, you probably vote Republican and if you believe that global warming is a reality then you probably vote Democrat.

For those of us like myself who believe the science behind climate change is incontrovertible, it is a matter of significant concern that the biggest [perhaps before China assumes or has assumed the title] greenhouse gas emitter in the world, the USA, is divided politically over whether the facts behind global warming are correct or not!

This means that in an American Congress which is fairly evenly balanced in terms of power between the House of Representatives (which is Republican), the Senate (which is Democrat) and the White House (which is also Democrat), it is very hard to get any kind of community of purpose on any issue which is even vaguely political.

There is good news, however, in that not only do major corporations in the United States, [24 out of the Forbes 500 top 25], show total commitment to sustainability – on the basis of global warming acknowledgment – but across the country, large and small states and large and small cities are committing themselves and their governments to sustainability in very significant ways.

In a series of future articles,  I would like to share with you some of the key issues that I have faced and also to highlight some of the extraordinary perceptions that have been built-up about the very significant global change from paper to electronic communication. There are some very surprising conclusions that have to be challenged!


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