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green@work : Magazine : Back Issues : Sept/Oct 2003 : Frankel-y Speaking

Frankel-y Speaking

California Dreaming
A little political ambition can be a frightening thing.

By Senior Columnist Carl Frankel

Frankel-y Speaking

Loyal green@work columnist that I am, I have decided to use the pages of this magazine to make a public announcement: I hereby declare my candidacy for the governorship of California.

True, I’m not even from California, but Arnold’s from Austria and he’s running anyway, isn’t he?

I’m told that if you’re going to run for office, you’ve got to have a platform, so here’s mine, trimmed to its essentials.

First, and I say this in all humility, I will change the name of the state to Carlifornia.
Second—and, as it happens, in conclusion—I will get the state’s business-and-sustainability act in order. As my second gubernatorial act, I will appoint a sustainability czar who will be charged with making Carlifornia a national model for the greening of industry. (And if he doesn’t do it, you’d best believe I will boot his czarry butt straight out the door.)

I hereby pledge to hand the following guidelines to my personal czar on our very first day in office.

* Zero Tolerance. When you mess with Mother Earth, it’s a crime against nature and, ultimately, a crime against humanity. When corporate executives run afoul of our environmental laws, I won’t just slap them on the wrist, I’ll slap them with really big fines—or behind bars. I’ll also consider that ultimate three-strikes-and-you’re-out penalty—revoking the corporate charter. If zero tolerance can be invoked against nine-year-old schoolchildren with nail files on their key chains, why not against greedy fat-cat executives? I’ve even got a slogan lined up: ‘When it comes to the environment, California means business.’ Be afraid, corporate criminals: be very afraid. And welcome to Califearnia.

* Revising the Rules of the Game.
Corporations exist to maximize profits. That’s their legal duty, and unless we change the law (which isn’t going to happen any time soon), it’s delusional to think they’re going to behave in any other way. How do you do green industry, then? By changing the rules of the game so that the pursuit of profits protects rather than destroys the environment. Instead of subsidizing environmentally destructive practices, you subsidize environmentally restorative ones. Goodbye, oil subsidies. Hello, solar!

In the end, this is a reality-based approach. You play to what corporations actually are, not to what you’d like them to be.

* Fairness.
As your governor, my relationships with corporations will be based on mutuality. I won’t demand anything from them without offering something reasonable in return, and ditto the opposite way. There’s a word for this, actually: mitigation. For example, if a corporation wants to build a new factory, it has to restore a wetland, too. Fair is fair, after all. As governor, I will mitigate the hell out of our proud state.

Voters, remember: a vote for me is a vote for Califairnia!

* Inspiration.
In addition to the appeal to fear and the appeal to fairness, there’s what has famously been called the “vision thing.” People need inspiration, these days especially, and there’s nothing more inspiring than a great common project and vision.

As your governor, I will seed the business community with visionary challenges. A million dollars to the first company that eco-excalibrates the frumpulosity of kadidgets! And much more like that there.

I will also make California the world’s leading center for businesses with environmentally restorative technologies, products and services. With climate change already well upon us, and with overpopulation and pollution burdening our natural resources, we are heading into what is looking increasingly like an ecological “perfect storm.” If we are to have any chance of countering this, we need a Manhattan Project for enterprise. This time, though, it won’t be named for a burgh on the tired East Coast. Nosirree, it will be the . . . “California Project!” It’s an invitation to a transformation: sign on and save the world! Like our slogan says: When it comes to the environment, California means business.

There’s much more to my platform than this, of course. I will support local living economies by gaming the system in their favor. I will pass legislation that legitimizes and empowers social enterprises that unlike old-style publicly-held companies tether capitalism to the public good. I will pay close attention to the social dimension of sustainability, for instance, by bringing eco-jobs to blighted communities.

I will do lots of other cool stuff, too.

Trust me on this. I am not your usual politician.

The future is Carlifornia!

Carl Frankel’s next book, Out of the Labyrinth: Who We are, How We Go Wrong and What We Can Do About It, will be published in 2004. Frankel can be reached at:

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