In November of 2015, President Barack Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum harkening back to the days of Roosevelt in which he stressed the importance of preserving natural resources for future generations, a memorandum which initiated with a statement that, "we all have a moral obligation to the next generation to leave America's natural resources in better condition than when we inherited them."
Comparatively, at the Opening Conference on Conservation of Natural Resources in 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt, stated:
"We have become great because of the lavish use of our resources. But the time has come to inquire seriously what will happen when our forests are gone, when the coal, the iron, the oil, and the gas are exhausted, when the soils have still further impoverished and washed into the streams, polluting the rivers, denuding the fields and obstructing navigation."
Why is it that over a century later, our nation's leaders continue to struggle with the same great balancing act between economic prosperity and natural resource preservation?
Focus on global climate change and the negative environmental impacts of fossil fuels have resulted in somewhat of a paradigm shift, the pendulum swinging toward renewable energy as a means to solve woes imparted by traditional use of fossil fuels.
However, the zealous pursuit of renewable energy has not been without consequences. Swaths of power generation lines cut through what is left of pristine territory, traversing the landscape much like railway constructs of the Industrial Revolution.
In recent years, utility scale solar installations utilizing thousands of acres of public lands have sprung up like dandelions across the western United States,
while a landscape peppered with wind turbines continues to expand across mountains and valleys nationwide, slowly but surely moving out into the sea as we explore tidal/wind energy production options.
Although record breaking in their capacity to generate power for the masses and decrease reliance on "dirtier" technology, the full impacts of these installations has yet to be fully realized.The end goal is clear in its intent — cleaner power for a cleaner planet — but perhaps it's time that, as technology pushes ahead, we pause for a moment to consider how we are growing; we're better, but are we smarter?
Great advances and breakthroughs in any arena are not without their learning curves; it is a natural and expected part of the development process. Under increased public scrutiny, governing bodies and corporations are now working more closely together to find solutions to realistic protection ofnatural resources while promoting "cleaner" technologies.
Lessons learned are incorporated into future installation planning, with a greater emphasis placed on mitigation measures that are both beneficial to the environment and economically feasible.
Beyond these things, it is important to continue investing our time and energy educating the masses, encouraging communication and cooperation between all stakeholders, and building collaborations that will not just preserve, but restore our resources so that when the President speaks 100 years from now, he does not call us to action, but revels in our progress in the great sustainable balancing act.
Therese Carpenter is the Site Environmental Manager for First Solar, Phoenix, Ariz.