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Inaugural Reminder That Environment And Economy Are Partners

It's been more than 60 minutes now since Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th president of the United States and still the economy is in a shambles and the environment remains trashed. Go figure.

Kevin Ferguson

January 20, 2009

4 Min Read

It's been more than 60 minutes now since Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th president of the United States and still the economy is in a shambles and the environment remains trashed. Go figure.Apparently, it's going to take a little longer to right the listing ship that is our nation. What seems certain to me, though, is that President Obama takes the helm, he won't be righting the economy only to see the environment sink, nor vice-versa.

Nor must he. The idea that one must be chose over the other is false. In fact, both can be -- indeed, both must be -- chosen for each to work.

As Eoin O'Carroll notes in the Christian Science Monitor, a January 2008, a Zogby poll of 32,000 Americans found that a majority of them believe that if their local communities adopt more environmentally friendly policies, there will be a positive impact on the local economy. Similar results were found to a 2007 poll by the Center for American Progress, he notes. "If these polls are correct, most Americans think that improving the environment and stimulating the economy are quite compatible. So when pollsters frame the two as mutually exclusive, they get bizarre results. It's like asking people if they prefer 'exercise' over 'jogging' and then expecting the answers to be meaningful. Polls are about perceptions of facts, not the facts themselves. But reality seems to confirm that environmental protection and economic growth can go hand-in-hand."

And while 2009 will be a rough year, 2010 may well see the start of an economic recovery and increased IT spending, according to Computer Economics in its December 2008 report, IT Spending in Recessions: 2009-2010 Forecast:

"Computer Economics has been conducting surveys of IT spending and staffing trends since 1990. This record of nearly 20 years of survey data is long enough to provide insight into how organizations changed their IT spending during the two previous recessions. Although the past is not always a precursor of the future, we find evidence that IT spending should rebound more quickly than it did during the tech-led recession in 2001, following a pattern more akin to what occurred after the deep 1990-91 downturn. Our long-range forecast, however, does not anticipate a return to the 1990 boom years, when Internet and Y2K spending produced a bubble that distorted historical patterns. Rather, we anticipate spending should rebound to the more modest rates of recent years."

And as IT spending rebounds, it will become readily apparent that energy-efficient products make the most economic sense.

I have seen this firsthand. As noted previously in this space, I plunked down a large chunk of change to install an energy-efficient heating system for my home office. That cash has gone to local utility workers in Massachusetts, the manufacturing company in New York, plumbing and electrical inspectors in my hometown, a few truck drivers, and others. I expect to see ROI in about five years. In the meantime, I've polluted far less than I used to, and my electricity bill for December was $8, down from about $120 a year ago.

I think the economy and environment can work in tandem.

In the words of President Obama in his inaugural address:

"For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act -- not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place ... We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. ... All this we can do. And all this we will do. Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions -- who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage."

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