93. Greening the Chambers Initiative
Local Chambers of Commerce are vital hubs for their local communities, and here in Silicon Valley they help power a global growth engine. The green business revolution, however, is sadly lacking and in fact being actively harmed at the top by the US Chamber of Commerce, which has an anti-green business agenda due to the US Chamber's rejection of basic climate science and of the need for climate solutions provided in part by green businesses.
Green businesses need to take greater involvement and leadership within local Chambers. The local Chambers need to use their great influence and community respect for local environmental needs. The US Chamber needs to learn, in ways that it will not forget, that it cannot continue its policy of harm to the green business sector.
A Greening the Chambers Initiative, focusing first on Silicon Valley and expanding to other dynamic parts of the Bay Area, will actively recruit green businesses for membership, funding, and leadership positions within local Chambers of Commerce. The concrete results will be active environmental involvement by local Chambers and concerted pressure on the US Chamber to change its policies or potentially risk losing its regional affiliations and the risk the potential establishment of an alternative, politically unbiased business promotion group.
The Morgan Hill Chamber of Commerce's Environmental Advisory Committee constitutes one model of what could be done on the local level. This committee helps develop the Chamber's environmental policies, and it also has helped organize or exclusively organized the City's Earth Day celebrations. Green business involvement locally can help develop Chamber positions on environmental issues, can create a "Green Pages" listing of local environmental businesses, can promote high-visibility events like Earth Day, and undertake their own local projects.
Local Chambers and prominent people within them (for example in Palo Alto) have made their dissatisfaction with the US Chamber's climate policies very clear. Having this happen in a coordinated and effective regional campaign could concentrate the minds the leadership in the US Chamber to end policies working to the detriment of green businesses. The possibility of losing the brightest star in the US economy to a regional revolt against a denial of scientific reality might change the Chamber's policy. If not, it could ultimately result in the creation of a national, pro-business organization that eschews political partisanship as a rival to the US Chamber. That could change things.
Why it should be recognized:
The "think globally, act locally" expression can have its best possible effect in the heart of the green business community in Silicon Valley, The single biggest institutional block to real action on the planet is the US Chamber of Commerce, while local green businesses have tremendous power to bring change locally and nationally, not just in their own business but in how businesses associate through the Chambers. An initiative, through eventual seed funding, to recruit green businesses in local Chambers would be very welcome in those Chambers themselves and start the path to change. The ability to replicate and extend these changes in Silicon Valley, the Bay Area, and possibly elsewhere, will create tremendous leverage and benefits.
For the Lord of the Rings fans among us, Silicon Valley is Rivendell, and the US Chamber is - not Mordor, but Isengard, a place on the path to disaster but not yet bent beyond hope for change. The US Chamber should assist the fight against climate disaster, not hinder it, and this solution may make that change possible.