On Nov. 20, President Barack Obama took the stage at the 2019 Greenbuild International Conference and Expo in Atlanta, kicking off the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC's) annual event with a discussion moderated by USGBC president and CEO Mahesh Ramanujam. In the hour-long talk, Obama focused on issues facing the built environment, discussed the importance of creating sustainable agendas, and connected the issues of climate change and global inequality, according to a USGBC emailed press brief.
During the conversation, Obama identified climate change and global economic inequality as the most compelling issues in the world today, explaining the difficulty leaders face in addressing the two “directly connected” issues.
“The reason I say those two things are connected is that it is hard to figure out how we solve sustainability issues and deal with climate change if you also have huge gaps in wealth and opportunity and education,” he explained. “Because what happens—and we’re seeing this around the globe—is that as wealth gets more and more concentrated, and more and more energy is used up by the few, the many become resentful and it undermines our sense of politics and a sense of community. It is hard for us then to mobilize the body politic around taking collective action. So we’re not going to solve the former if we’re not also attempting to do the latter, and I think that’s important to remember.”
“It is hard to figure out how we solve sustainability issues and deal with climate change, if you also have huge gaps in wealth, opportunity and education.” -@BarackObama #Greenbuild19 @Greenbuild @USGBC @SINERGIIBS pic.twitter.com/dU0hkTF0E4— Rodrigo Gomez Junco (@rodrigogj) November 20, 2019
Obama also discussed his leadership style, commenting on how raising his two daughters has helped form his approach. “Parenting takes you outside of yourself,” he said. “It reminds you that ultimately what is most important is what you are contributing. It humbles you, people don’t listen to you, you have to come up with new strategies to get things done.”