British lord John Gummer gives Atlanta environmental vision

By Maria Saporta

April in Atlanta. Dogwoods. Azaleas. Warm days. Cool nights.

It’s no wonder why we celebrate our place on earth during the month of April.

So the speech that the Right Honourable John Gummer, Lord Deben of the British House of Lords gave at Southface’s Visionary Dinner at the 200 Peachtree building on March 31 keeps playing in my head.

“We are living in the most exciting moment in time,” Gummer told the Atlanta audience. “Everybody here ought to be immensely grateful to be living now, this is the moment.”

The moment? Climate change.

“This is the moment in which human beings realize we have to be together,” Gummer said. “We will solve none of our problems unless we do it together.”

Gummer then provided an overseas view of the United States.

“I don’t think that Americans recognize the real anger in the rest of the world,” he said. “You have 4 percent of the world’s population, and you produce 25 percent of the world’s emissions. You are changing my climate. That’s why the rest of the world feels very strongly that the United States needs to join the world’s campaign to save the planet.”

Gummer, a British conservative leader who is a former environmental minister, currently sits on Coca-Cola’s environmental advisory board.

The message is that we as a planet and as a country — we need to do more with less.

“Sustainability, is there a better definition of profit than that?” Gummer asked. “If you do more with less, the bottom line grows. What are we doing wasting money on energy that we don’t need to use? What are we doing wasting water that we need to use? Wastage is not a conservative value. I don’t want to give money to the utilities. I want to keep it keep it to myself.”

A good place to start is by making sure our buildings are more energy efficient. In Britain, Gummer said the goal is that by 2016, every house has to meet a eco-standard of being zero carbon.

“We are now making capitalism work in favor of sustainability,” Gummer said. “We have to use the mechanism of capitalism to deliver the biggest change in our society that’s ever been, and we need to do it as quickly as it can be done.”

All the countries in the European already are committed to am 80 percent reduction carbon emissions by 2050; and 20 percent by 2020, he said.

“Don’t tell me climate change isn’t happening,” Gummer said, adding people actually know there is climate change but continue to deny it. “We think it’s too tough, too difficult. Yet it’s actually the key to the future.”

Gummer said that it is imperative that communities like Atlanta lead the way to making the United States a more sustainable nation.

“We need you in a way that you can not understand,” Gummer said. “I want people to care for you, and I want people to be your friends.”

And Gummer, an optimist by nature, reminded those attending the Visionary dinner that we should be grateful to live in countries where we have the freedom to choose how we live our lives and how we can improve our communities.

“Aren’t we lucky, fortunate, blessed?” Gummer asked.

Yes we are. All we need is an April in Atlanta to help us appreciate what we have while we still can.

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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