Here’s a departure from my usual blog, a take-off from President Carter’s “A Crisis of Confidence” 1978 speech that seems both relevant and inspiring 45 years after he delivered it originally. His concern was on the current energy crisis; mine is on Sustainable Living. But the path to solving the problem has striking parallels, from which we may learn.
The following sentences are comprised of words and phrases, in italics, I selected from President Carter’s original speech. Between his phrases I inserted my comments. I tightened the total text while trying to maintain the same heart of his message.
- “You’ve heard less and less about our nation’s hopes, our dreams, and our vision of the future.”
- “Talk to us about our common good.”
- “We are confronted with a moral and spiritual crisis.”
The media, following the “If it bleeds, it leads” guide to boost reader & viewer numbers, features disasters more than visions to which we might aspire. Political leaders also tend to focus on blaming others for negatives, rather than creating inspiring visions for a bright future, and how to get there.
- “When we import oil, we are also importing inflation plus unemployment.”
- “We’ve got to use what we have.”
- “There will be other cartels and other shortages. American wisdom and courage right now can set a path to follow in the future.”
- “We may make mistakes, but we are ready to experiment.”
Everything I’ve done to create a net zero sustainable community essentially uses current technology. Our only utility bills for home and car are for phone and internet, and a municipal waste and recycling fee. We use what nature provides, and our site is actually healthier and more beautiful now.
- “All the legislation in the world can’t fix what’s wrong with America.”
- “The threat to American democracy is a crisis of confidence. It strikes at the heart and soul and spirit of our national will. We can see this crisis in the growing doubt about the meaning of our own lives and in the loss of a unity of purpose for our nation. The erosion of our confidence in the future is threatening to destroy the social and the political fabric of America.”
- “Confidence in the future has supported everything else – public institutions and private enterprise, our own families, and the very Constitution of the United States. Confidence has defined our course and has served as a link between generations. We’ve always believed in something called progress. We’ve always had a faith that the days of our children would be better than our own.”
- “Our people are losing that faith, not only in government but in the ability as citizens to serve as the ultimate rulers and shapers of our democracy. We always believed we were part of a great movement of humanity itself called democracy, involved in the search for freedom; and that belief has always strengthened us in our purpose.”
- “In a nation that was proud of hard work, strong families, close-knit communities, and our faith in God, too many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption. Human identity is no longer defined by what one does, but by what one owns. But we’ve discovered that owning things and consuming things does not satisfy our longing for meaning. We’ve learned that piling up material goods cannot fill the emptiness of lives which have no confidence or purpose.”
- “The symptoms of this crisis of the American spirit are all around us. For the first time in the history of our country, a majority of the people believe that the next five years will be worse than the past five years. Two-thirds of our people do not vote. The productivity of American workers is dropping, and the willingness of Americans to save for the future has fallen below that of all other people in the Western world.”
Fewer people want to have children; even with immigration, we are not maintaining our population size. And my own observations – based on a very limited sample – are that even university students seem to be graduating without a strong “sense of purpose” … a “meaning” to guide their lives.
- “There is growing disrespect for government, churches, schools, the news media, and other institutions.”
- “What you see too often is a government that seems incapable of action. You see a Congress twisted and pulled in every direction by hundreds of well-financed and powerful social interests.”
- “We must face the truth, then we can change our course. We must have faith in each other, faith in our ability to govern ourselves, and faith in the future of this nation. Restoring that faith and that confidence to America is the most important task we face. It is a challenge of this generation of Americans.”
These comments feel as true today as they were 45 years ago. Well, if our confidence in institutions is less, where do we turn?
- “We Americans put a man on the moon, dedicated our society to the pursuit of human rights and equality; we are the generation that will win the energy problem war and, in that process, rebuild the unity and confidence of America.”
- “The promises of our future point to a path of common purpose and the restoration of American values. That path leads to freedom for our nation and ourselves. On that path we solve our energy problem.”
- “Energy will be the test of our ability to unite this nation; it can be the standard around which we rally. On the energy battlefield we can win a new confidence, and can seize control of our common destiny.”
Then came a recommendation that may solve the problem …
- “I’m proposing you build conservation into your homes and your lives at a cost you can afford.”
Even 45 years ago, President Carter saw the potential of change emanating from individual efforts, as confidence in institutions and the people who run them was diminishing then and may be even lower now.
- “The solution of our energy crisis can also help us conquer the crisis of spirit in our country. It can rekindle our sense of unity, our confidence in the future, and give us all a new sense of purpose.”
- “We have the world’s highest level of innovative genius, and the national will to win this war. But we can succeed only if we tap our greatest resources – America’s people, America’s values, and America’s confidence.
If you look at what’s transpired in the 45 years since President Carter’s speech, globalization has leveled the playing field considerably. Many countries have higher literacy rates now. And many have populations that have a more productive work force. However, President Carter’s observation about our American culture of inventiveness may be as true today.
The internet began here. The computer age with IBM and Apple and global wireless telecommunication began here; others create less expensive duplicate versions. The shift from fossil fuel-powered cars to electric cars was led by Tesla – again with less expensive versions now cropping up elsewhere. Our culture somehow seems to provide a base (and tolerance) for innovation.
Our Garden Atrium net zero development is essentially “applied research” aimed at providing everything we need to live 100% in harmony with Earth, to enjoy a better quality-of-life experience, and to do it in way that’s readily affordable to most of our population. As people adapt to a Sustainable Living lifestyle – a new “normal” – we’ll solve the energy crisis that President Carter was facing, and then some! Finishing with President Carter’s admonition …
“We’ve got to stop crying and start sweating,
stop talking and start walking, stop cursing and start praying.
The strength we need will not come from the White House, but from every house in America.”
I hope these thoughts will inspire you to take some action.