On the 22nd of July, the EarthScope interns interviewed Huey Johnson, former Secretary of Resources for California during the Brown Administration, founder of the Resource Renewal Institute, and advocate for Green Plans. Johnson has picked up an interest for Green Plans after noticing the success other countries have had with them, especially the Netherlands and New Zealand. He even wrote a book (Green Plans: Blueprint for Sustainable Earth) on them.
Johnson described a Green Plan as “a comprehensive approach to managing resources.” He pointed out that as a nation, we can’t just focus on one single issue. We have to understand that in managing natural resources, we need to put them together in a “comprehensive package” in order to face the environment correctly.
While over in the Netherlands, Johnson was wondering why the chemical industry was one of the most important voices in establishing and initiating a Green Plan, and they replied, “’After there was a terrible accident in India – chemical problems occurred, people died during the night, and gases exploded. We realized that if anything like that happened in Europe, we’d be out of business.’” So, the industry created regulations a lot more severe than anything the government had in mind and the nation got behind them as leaders. As Johnson says, it was a “strange phenomenon.”
When asked why he thought the Green Plans internationally were such a success, Johnson responded, “because the public was behind them and they were realistic. So you have a systemic, integrated approach to managing resources. A little complicated to say but that’s what it amounts to.”
Johnson believes that in time, we are going to have to adapt a Green Plan like those in California. Although we are currently a long way away from doing it, he thinks, “under our political system, we are capable of rapid change. If we get some political leaders who understand the importance of it and some industries to back it up, it could happen right away.” He would definitely want to see water be addressed in a California Green Plan and building density. Johnson believes that as our population increases, instead of building out, we should build up, as many other nations like England and Russia have already been doing by building skyscrapers so that there is more space around them. He thinks it’s a great way of managing intense population increases.
As far as education goes, Johnson believes that it is, one of the most important issues in democracy, saying, “We are only going to be so good as the understanding the public has of issues.” However, environmental issues are complicated and many face them without the background knowledge, threatening a solution. He says, “by not putting money into education, we actually threaten our democracy and our future.”
He would like to see the education addressed in a future California Green Plan, mentioning, “It’s a good example of one of those issues that seem intangible but relates to the environment in an important way.” In regards to California’s ranking in national education, he also says, “We have sunk from a great education system by our unwillingness to pay taxes for education.”
-Sophi Leporte, EarthScope Student Reporter