April 6, 2012
It is commonly assumed that our national security depends only on our capacity to project military power beyond our borders and has little to do with how we organize the internal business of the country. The nation’s armed strength and its “soft power” are necessary components of security, but they are not—and cannot be—the whole of it. A larger vision of security includes the internal resilience, health, and sustainability of the nation, that is to say its capacity for self-renewal. Real security, in other words, is inseparable from issues of energy policy; education; public health; preservation of soils, forests, and waters; and broadly based, sustainable prosperity. To achieve security, therefore, requires that we move beyond overreliance on military force and even “soft power” to goals promoting long-term sustainability and resilience. We have wasted much of any margin for error that we once had. We must now act with unprecedented ingenuity, discipline, and speed.
David W. Orr is the Paul Sears Distinguished Professor of Environmental Studies and Politics and Senior Adviser to the President, Oberlin College. He is the author of seven books, including Down to the Wire: Confronting Climate Collapse (Oxford, 2009) and co-editor of three others. He has authored nearly 200 articles, reviews, book chapters, and professional publications. In the past twenty-five years he has served as a board member or adviser to eight foundations and on the Boards of many organizations including the Rocky Mountain Institute, the Aldo Leopold Foundation, and Bioneers. He has been awarded seven honorary degrees and a dozen other awards including a Lyndhurst Prize and a National Achievement Award from the National Wildlife Federation. He has lectured at hundreds of colleges and universities throughout the U.S., Europe, and Asia. He headed the effort to design, fund, and build the Adam Joseph Lewis Center, which was named by an AIA panel as “the most important green building of the past thirty years,” and as “one of thirty milestone buildings of the twentieth century” by the U.S. Department of Energy. He is the executive director of the Oberlin project, and an editor of the journal Solutions.