Several years ago, I had the privilege to volunteer with the US National Park Service (NPS). At the time, I was working with the US Forest Service(USFS). Both my volunteer work and actual work focused on restoration.
While they may seem similar, the missions of the two agencies differ. The NPS’s mission is one of preservation. Their mission states:
“. . .purpose is to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”
The USFS’s mission, on the other hand, contrasts the other agency’s mission on one key point.
“Our mission, as set forth by law, is to achieve quality land management under the sustainable multiple-use management concept to meet the diverse needs of people.”
It’s that bit about multiple-use. And it is an important one. I believe it’s a guide to dealing with climate change.
The Triple Bottom Line
While not stating it overtly, the USFS operates with a triple bottom line approach (TBL). Coined by John Elkington, TBL is an accounting framework that recognizes not only the financial, but also the social and ecological measures.
Back in the day, conservation used to embrace more of the preservation aspect. Forget the people; limit their access. (Definitely sounds like the NPS.) And for a while, it worked. Lots of restoration and preservation moved forward. We cleaned up the streams and the air.
Unfortunately, some of the dialogue on climate change has taken up that charge, with a little twist added. The limit exists but as a control or regulation. That’s not always a bad thing. It does take a sharp downturn though if it ignores the financial and social factors.
It’s the Reality
The push toward doing something about climate change often ignores the social and financial factors. It’s one thing to say that we’ll cut emissions or increase our use of renewable energy. It’s another thing to implement them.
The global economy has stumbled. We have aging infrastructure—just ask California about its water situation. Hell, the water infrastructure in my neighborhood is showing signs of wear. City workers are repairing a water main leak down the road as I write this.
Renewable energy still has some significant hurdles to overcome. And it’s not a nationwide solution. The resources are better suited in some areas versus others. Then, there’s that bit about the infrastructure and billions and billions and billions of dollars.
Considering the Social Side
No matter what the cause, dissension will always exist. However, since climate change now wears a robe of ideology, it makes no sense to ignore the dissension. If governments want to make drastic changes to our quality of life, we better damn well have a say in the matter.
Climate change demands a rational approach. The only way to have a meaningful dialogue about it is to consider the triple bottom line. A solution doesn’t have to ignore social or financial constraints. Rather, it must work with them for solutions that everyone can live with.