Sunday, June 19, 2011

Do what you must for your country, don’t let it rot to the point where we have to be drafted to clean up the mess.

My personal political beliefs have shifted from a liberal, social welfare driven, state of mind to a more conservative one since I began to learn about sustainability. Here is why: if we are really going to make a difference, we have to take the responsibilities to make it happen; we can’t count on the government to force our way into sustainability just as we can’t expect our government to force us into military services.

I had written a short blog about why I thought military services should be mandatory, but at the pleads of my liberal friends I realized the principles of voluntarism applies as well to anything we do – do what you must for your country, don’t let it rot to the point where we have to be drafted to clean up the mess.

But I do believe our federal government plays a critical role in allocating resources, uniting strong and positive messages, and giving states and individuals something to act upon. That is the role of our government, of our president – not as a king and laying down decrees but giving assistance to help us achieve.

Last year, when I began my search in sustainable knowledge, I stumbled upon an EPA, HUD, and DOT joint effort to build sustainable communities. I had been a bit discouraged at the time thinking that it was an effort to create more robust federal involvement at the local level. Naturally I resisted the idea and put the thought behind.

I recently saw an EPA news release about this initiative. I read a bit more and realized just how childish it was for me to ignore the project simply because of its vigorous federal involvement. Sure, the money came from the unwilling tax payers and republicans are screaming foul because these kind projects cuts into their old “leave it to someone else to worry about the consequences of their profit structure” mentality. But as much as I dislike the current level of presidential powers over the people and the state, I see this particular project between EPA, HUD, and DOT a significant and progressive one.

Sure the EPA may lay final rules that inhibit business development at times, but that is only to protect the environment and our health. HUD and DOT also has their separate bureaucratic problems but they too serve important roles if their mandates are properly balanced against the social needs of our small communities.

Since last year, announcing the partnership, the agencies have dedicated more than $2.5 billion in assistance to more than 200 communities in 48 states. The goals are to help meet housing and transportation goals while simultaneously protecting the environment, promoting equitable development, and addressing the challenges of climate change. Of that funding, $238 million was focused on America’s rural communities.

You can see some highlighted the resources, best practices, grant announcements, and other information here

“When EPA, HUD and DOT pool our knowledge and our strategies in this Partnership, we’re better equipped to build solutions that lower transportation costs, reduce harmful emissions and improve our health and the health of our environment," said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson.

I can’t help but dream that this kind of joint efforts will help the sustainability movement achieve scale, equalize economic incentives, and address the problems of unequal distributions of our health, environmental, and housing injustices to the poor.

One can only hope, but it is up to the rest of us to do something about it and use the resources and make a difference. My buddy Mark and I are looking into DOL grants to help homeless veterans with job training and community development and I think there may be synergies between what DOL is doing with this joint effort. I realized this morning that a holistic approach of sustainability cannot be driven from the top-down, but it must be taken up from the bottoms-up. To defeat the thing that has plagued our Democracy and federalism, and all of the side-effects and consequences of slow government actions, we the people must come together and help make a difference. It’s time to stop bashing the government and start working with it to make a difference.


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