Election Lecture Stresses Green

Unnamed photo
Jessica A. Pledger

Professor Sheila Jasanoff discusses climate change and other environmental concerns in the context of the presidential election at an event sponsored by the Institute of Politics at the Kennedy School yesterday.

The importance of a strong environmental policy for the next administration was the topic of a talk given last night by Sheila Jasanoff, a professor of science and technology studies at the Kennedy School of Government, in one of many events focused on sustainability this week.

The presentation, in front of a small audience at the Institute of Politics, was the second installment in a four-part “Election 101” series designed to educate students on key issues leading up to the presidential election.

“It’s all about collective action,” said Jasanoff, a leading expert on the environment and climate change and a forerunner in creating environmental politics classes at a number of leading universities.

The professor opened her presentation with a video of Republican luminaries leading chants of “Drill, baby, drill,” calling it an “iconic moment” in this election on par with Christopher Reeve’s 1996 appearance at the Democratic National Convention in favor of stem-cell research.

She also provided her audience with a brief overview of where the Democrats and Republicans stand on environmental policy, highlighting key differences and the importance of developing new technologies.

In the interest of objectivity, the openly Democratic Jasanoff presented several examples of environmentally friendly policies enacted by previous Republican presidents, including George H. W. Bush. “[These are] things that his son has moved away from,” she added.

Jasanoff said she considers environmental policy an international issue. “People are simply not looking to America to play a leadership role, and that’s a dangerous position to be in. We need to show we’re willing to make sacrifices.”

Despite her clear preference for the policies of the Democrats, Jasanoff expressed skepticism about whether either candidate will be able to support both the environment and job creation and whether “green-collar jobs” will be successful.

“New technology initiatives do not create jobs in depressed areas,” she said.

Jasanoff concluded by emphasizing the need for fundamental shifts in U.S. behavior and ideology. “Just seeing the United States come out of this stagnant, backward-looking, imperialist period will hopefully inspire Americans,” she said.

Jonathan M. Kaufman ’12 said he agreed with Jasanoff that the environment is a vital issue in the upcoming election. “I was actually kind of appalled by the [low] attendance,” he said. “We’re at such a critical point—it’s kind of discouraging that studying for Life Sci trumps hearing about something like this.”