“Innovation” is a buzzword that invokes the like of Steve Jobs and Sergei Brin. It creates an image of people shooting ahead in technology and getting out of mildly uncomfortable situations to positions of incredible wealth. In reality, innovation has become that which distracts the populace from direct problems instead of inspiring solutions. As long as people’s attention is redirected except for the very few, community engagement will be at a standstill and established players will continue to make the calls. The most crucial issue that the United States needs to address lies in how to transition from a culture of waste and consumption to an example of diverse living and sustainability.
If job creation is a goal, the main goal of companies with resources should be reclaiming already harnessed resources. Instead of getting oil for new plastic, companies should literally be working on sorting technology for landfills and dumps while employing more people to sift. Instead of cutting down more trees for wood products, companies should be investing in developing from already cut wood, especially during the aftermath of so many disasters. Mining new resources consistently leads to human rights violations, and there are so many resources — especially electronic parts — that could be reclaimed and reworked for future use.
Because most of the environmental eyesores are in marginalized communities, that would put more of them to work in places where they already are, reducing traffic. Arguing that such work is unprofitable is irrelevant when so many people have the resources to invest to make it profitable. Debating that no one would accept those jobs speaks more to the quality of the employer and wage stagnation than reality. Thus, a truly innovative entrepreneur will find a way to make environmentalism profitable.
Finally, it is time to demand more from people with extensive resources. Too often the onus is placed on the already burdened, mocking them with the notion that they have to “be the change they want to see.” People with resources can invest in direct action in a way that marginalized people cannot. People who already have the connections to make people listen and the aptitude to persuade need to more aggressively demonstrate those capacities. Yes, it will be difficult to make good practices viable and profitable, but anyone make $20mil per year has the ability partake in more financial risk than people making six figures or less, more often less.
Leadership should be inspiring and direct others to scalable change. No one should be working to distract people from the looming climate threat based on prior bad habits. There is a short window of opportunity to retrain constituents, but it is vital that the transition begins sooner unless the United States wants to continue paying the price of distraction.