At the close of the hottest summer in recorded history, there is now widespread understanding that climate change is already upon us. But will the post-fossil fuel economy be prosperous, fair, durable, and resilient? What political economic and social changes must we make to ensure its success?
Oberlin College and the Oberlin Project presented a landmark conference on climate change from October 6-8, 2016. After Fossil Fuels: The Next Economy brought together some of the most innovative and influential thinkers in the world with key elected officials who have a solid and active track record on climate change issues. Organized by David W. Orr, Paul Sears Distinguished Professor of Environmental Studies Emeritus and the founder and visionary behind the Oberlin Project, the goal of the conference was to transcend ideological and political differences, to highlight effective strategies, and to mobilize support for building the next economy.
Former governors Arnold Schwarzenegger of California and Bill Ritter of Colorado, and bestselling author and environmental activist Bill McKibben were among the 40-plus participants who discussed the changes needed to spur a successful transition to a sustainable, resilient, prosperous, and equitable economy driven by safe, renewable energy.
After Fossil Fuels was the first major event held in the new Peter B. Lewis Gateway Center. This state-of-the-art conference center, located within the Hotel at Oberlin, is ground-breaking in itself for its smart-energy engineering.
The following are some remarks from the conference. In case you missed it or want to revisit any of the talks, an archive of the live stream can be viewed here.
Bill McKibben, author, environmentalist, and founder of 350.org: “Climate change is different than all other problems, a moving target with a time limit—if we do not solve it fast, then we will not solve it, we will reach a point when our ability to intervene will be gone… . You’ve gotta go outside your comfort zone, because the planet is so far outside of its comfort zone.”
Arnold Schwarzenegger, 38th governor of California, actor, and founder of the Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy: “We think that if the whole country does the same thing as California—just copy us, don’t reinvent the wheel—it would be the equivalent of taking 180 million cars off the road.”
Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club: “There is a supermajority in this country who believe that climate change is real, that humans are the cause, and that government leaders need to take more action. Don’t be fooled into thinking the entire American public is divided. Polls don’t support that, and the policies we’re starting to implement don’t support that either.”
Juliet Schor, professor of sociology at Boston College: “American workers have especially long hours of work. This is the least talked-about issue in the climate change discussion. An economy of long-hour jobs produces fewer jobs and contributes to income inequality. If we can significantly reduce the average number of hours worked, we can reduce emissions and improve quality of life.”
Tom Steyer, philanthropist and president of NexGen Climate: “We have this image in our head that we’re tied to the old economy...but the new economy means more jobs and more growth.”