There are few things more interesting or entertaining than a speech by Governor Jerry Brown. Congratulations to our friends at Ceres for an extraordinary conference bringing together investors, business, NGOs, academics and other thought leaders around advancing sustainable business strategies that grow the economy while protecting the health of the planet.

And who better to send the conference attendees – already near satiation with new ideas and business cards – out the door motivated and inspired, than the insatiable Governor Brown.

I won’t be able to truly do justice to his remarks – no one can take notes as fast as that man can think – but beginning with the refreshingly candid assessment that “really stupid stuff is going on,” the Governor plunged into a remarkable tour de force through the events leading up to WWI (“six months, they thought it would take six months – 20 million dead people later, not so much…”), the fall of the Ottoman Empire, supply side economics, the fact that the current arms trade has now reached $50 billion worldwide, and our many intractable problems (retirees! deteriorating highways! growing inequality! student debt!).

The Governor wove all of this together with unerring focus on his key themes:

  • Smart, often well-meaning people have made incredibly stupid decisions that have harmed the nation and the world in terrible ways and have been doing so for a long time;
  • We’re not sustainable in the way we’re addressing virtually all of our societal issues;
  • Decision makers are insufficiently dialed in – leaders in both parties have lost the public’s confidence that they can solve problems.

Echoing many of the speakers at the 2-day conference, Governor Brown pointed out that we know how to be sustainable. What we lack, he said, is “the political will to do it.” Our biggest problem, according to one of America’s foremost political minds, is “waking up to the truth of the situation and remedying it in ways that are thoughtful, wise and sustainable.” This is where the people in the room come in, the Governor indicated – pressing for solutions, leading the way, showing what works.

Get on it, he said. This can be done.

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Cynthia Koehler is the Executive Director and Co-Founder of WaterNow Alliance. 

 

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