ColinBy: Colin G. Tetreault
Faculty Associate & Master of Arts, Sustainability
Arizona State University | School of Sustainability

Happy belated Earth Day! Is anyone feeling a bit like a week-old birthday balloon: deflated, left in the corner, wrinkled and tired looking? Maybe it’s the impeding summer heat-to-come, but perhaps something more onerous is afoot. Indeed, Phoenix has benefit from a fantastic Renaissance of local organizations and movements centered on Earth Day and its associated goals. I’m proud of the work our local organizations and citizens have done. However, I can’t help but ask myself, “Now what? What’s next? How do we keep this Earth Day feeling moving?”

Don’t get me wrong, I am an eternal optimist; however, I have a pragmatic side, as well. So, the question becomes, “If we’ve got great community and local organizational support, what additional piece of the pie are we missing?” One of the big answers is – here is where my cocktail party etiquette goes array – politics. Namely, it is our elected officials who can help further or hinder sustainable endeavors locally, regionally and statewide. You may think that this aspect may be anything but pragmatic, but I believe that it is.

None of us are new to the game of politics. Can we, pragmatically speaking, expect each of our current and future elected officials to be a bastion and herald of integrated, holistic sustainability thought and action? No.

What we can do, rather, is offer our voice and our partnership in the process of politics.

Our voice: Let your elected officials know that issues pertaining to Earth Day, sustainability and the future of Arizona are important to you, your family, friends and colleagues. While elected officials are perceptive, they are not clairvoyant. I encourage you to start a line of dialogue. Our politicians will respond to what we dictate as the most salient and pressing issues. Let them know that issues on sustainability are important to you…and your vote.

Our partnership: If you are reading this, chances are that you affiliate with and self-select to issues germane to sustainability. Further, your professional work or personal fortes probably exist in the sustainability sphere of influence. Politicians – remember pragmatism – may not always self select to this particular value and belief set. Herein exists the opportunity: partnership.

We have a gargantuan collective knowledge base that can help advance us all down a more sustainable trajectory. Instead of being resigned to anger at action or inaction of our elected officials, why don’t we reach out to them and offer our assistance? Get involved in your community boards and village planning committees, or vie for an appointment on a state board or commission.

Let’s inflate that Earth Day balloon for the entire year, offer our voice and partnership as a resource, and make some change happen.

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