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Fear Trumps Hope?


Many consider Americans to be polling as angry, but anger isn’t the emotion driving the national public agenda right now. It’s fear. Anger is just the fiercer face of fear and right now, Americans are afraid of nearly everything.

Who could blame them? A sour job market is keeping unemployment at 10 percent, the nation is still stuck in two wars, one of which is looking more perilous and unwinnable. The cost of a college education continues to go up, but it’s value seems diminished with so many out of work college grads. Americans have piled up a mountain of personal debt, from underwater mortgages to credit cards, to student loans. It seems we all owe corporations some massive amount cash. Those same corporations sell us over priced homes, take tax payer bailouts, reap huge profits our backs, dump oil into the Gulf of Mexico and for good measure invade our privacy regularly.

In a climate of circuitous bad news and reasons to be fearful, it’s not surprising that the common response is anger. The Tea Party movement has a seductive libertarian streak, but what the right is doing is capitalizing on the overwhelming anger and fear in the populous. Afraid you will lose your job – punish the undocumented worker, worried about the deficit – punish the unemployed , punish the environment, call healthcare reform socialism, call the President Adolf Hitler. Scream and yell “drill, baby, drill!” who cares if there isn’t enough oil to cover our needs no matter how deep we go? Fear trumps change.

Yet there are greater existential threats, ones that this congress will not take on. The cap and trade bill, as you have no doubt already heard, is stalled in the Senate. Democratic Party leadership has decided to set it aside to fight for another day. Essentially the leaders of the Democratic party decided that passing cap and trade isn’t worth the political fight in a midterm election year. The Democrats are already set to lose substantial seats in the House and Senate and could lose control of one or both chambers. And so the Democrats have decided it is better to try and stem the tide of losses they face in November (despite having control of the executive branch) than to use their vast majorities while they still exist. This is the great danger of our current political climate, we are too scared to take on the biggest if our problems. Our elected leaders are more concerned about keeping their jobs, than they are about doing them. Climate change is real and it’s happening every day, little by little and if we don’t stand and fight to stop it, if we don’t stand and fight to solve this energy crisis, our children and our grandchildren will pay a horrible price for our failure. The great recession will barely be a blip in history if we don’t work to solve the very real problems our planet is facing today.

But in the grip of this recession fear is all we know, it’s all we understand. We’re not thinking about what might happen to our grand kids, we’re hoping we can keep putting food on the table for our children. We’re not scared about what’s coming out of our tail pipe. We are scared that we’ll lose our house.

If our politicians, who do not face those same fears are still too afraid of losing their well subsidized jobs to take action against the greatest threat man kind has ever foreseen, then it’s time the fight for smarter climate policy move away from the political sphere and into the drawing rooms of America.

It’s time for the designers, artisans and builders of America to fight for sustainability in every project they undergo, whether that project needs to meet a LEED certification or not. The time for half measures and talk are over. We, the professionals of this nation are alone in this fight. We must assert our values in the work we do everyday, because no politician or political body will do it for us.

Yahya E. B. Henry

About Yahya E. B. Henry

Merging his passion for cities, real estate, tech and travel, Yahya is introducing the world to a new model of real estate development that draws from best practices around the globe.

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  • James,

    Great post, thanks.

    You cover the emotional reactions of a population well and I, like you and many others, am frustrated to see politics winning over statesmanship. It seems the question of right versus wrong in the frame of “greater good” continues to be ignored. Excessive lobbying sways the debate and, however unfortunate, affects public opinion.

    Another compelling point that you touch obliquely is the evidence that we, as a populace, wait for our system of government to lead the way. In my opinion, individuals should ultimately control decision making and that starts with personal choice.

    Please continue your crusade with @Build2Sustain. Collaborate with the fine work being done here at @Aribra and others. Individuals like you are leading the way and affecting many of us who make better choices daily. You are having an impact and we are pay it forward through our actions, many of which go unreported, but nevertheless affect those surrounding us.


  • This is exactly why I’m studying urban planning. Great post.

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