Bill Clinton Fears for the Future of American Democracy

Former President Bill Clinton at Greenbuild / Twitter

“We are at a momentary bizarre development in the course of human affairs,” said former President Bill Clinton at the opening plenary of the 2017 Greenbuild in Boston, where there are facts and “alternative facts.”

What’s very worrying for him: Democracy itself rests on facts, which are the basis of agreement and cooperation. In our system of government, “the most important thing is how we think.” Only when we share common faith in the same facts can we “come together do the right thing.”

If how we think is corrupted, “the system can be permanently altered.” American democracy itself, he seemed to say, is now at risk.

For Clinton, who spoke to thousands of architects, landscape architects, and other green industry professionals, a model for how to think is offered by biologist E.O. Wilson.

A fan of Wilson’s recent work — including Social Conquest of Earth, Half Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life, and The Meaning of Human Existence — Clinton said his books show that throughout history, “humans have — right before major calamities — altered their behavior and stopped the worst outcomes from happening.”

But Wilson also tells us that “humans are arrogant and close to destroying the Earth. We have to wake up before the car hits the brick wall.” We need to wake up so “we can go onto a higher level of achievement.”

That higher level of achievement is “the positive-sum game in which everyone wins — the slow, steady rise of cooperation, which has been the path of human history.”

Clinton believes the green industry itself acts as a democracy — with multiple coalitions coming together to create rating systems, like LEED and the Sustainable SITES Initiative® SITES®, and new models for solving problems. The green industry can then help forge a new path in which everyone wins.

As U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) president Mahesh Ramanujam argued, “everyone deserves the benefits of sustainable living.”

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