Silvia Zinetti was well known to many of us who were working in and around Brussels. Last year she moved to the US but has continued to work in the field of sustainable energy. She has written an excellent post about her first experience of the political scene in Washington, D.C.
Washington D.C. from a European perspective
This was my first time in America’s capital, the District of Columbia. I have now lived in the U.S. for almost a year, in a town called Oceanside, in San Diego California’s north county. I’m Italian by birth and until the move have been working in Brussels for the past eight years, mainly in the field of energy efficiency and sustainable energy. While I know a lot about European culture, everything in the US has been a new, fascinating adventure.
Going to D.C. was such an enriching experience for me as a newcomer to this new world. From the National Monument to the Lincoln Memorial, in the short period of free time I had available, I could not get enough of visiting these magnificent monuments. It was truly mesmerizing.
I went to Washington to attend a conference organized by Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL) about a new policy that could help the U.S. switch from a fossil fuel economy to a green economy with no harm to it. Citizens all around the U.S. came to D.C. for the same purpose. It was great to see how many people were on the same path and wanted to do something about it. Americans certainly seem ready for this transition. Our world economy has been based for far too long its own economy on fossil fuels. Something needs to change. And this lobby group was pushing for that day of change to come now.
Those days in Washington showed me the reality of things. There are many misperceptions of their views. Americans not only are concerned about climate change, but also want to do something to change this pattern. 900 citizens were reunited in DC with one goal: stop climate change! On Tuesday, June 23, 2015, 900 citizens went to Capitol Hill to lobby with more than 500 members of the Congress. WOW! That was my first American WOW! experience.
Americans know the importance to be unified to fight for what they believe in. They have a lot to teach to us – Europeans – on this matter. Why that? you would ask. Well, as I see it, the European Union is still relatively young and still quite fragmented. If you ask a European citizen where he or she comes from the answer would not be “I’m European”, but a country or region within Europe. I myself always say I am Italian. And there is nothing wrong with that. Absolutely nothing. But as Europeans I firmly believe that we should get together and be more united.
Being in Washington D.C. those few days, I felt like being in Brussels again. There is a similar environment and lots of energy all around. People are always on the move: going to Congress, going to a hearing, going to a conference. Policies are decided there. The same as it is in Brussels. Washington is a vibrant city and I surely want to go back there when the opportunity comes up again. I think it would be great if Americans could spend some time in their capital, as I think Europeans should spend some time in their European capital too!
Importantly I now better understand the importance of discussing energy efficiency and renewable energy policies at a higher, political level. Citizens really can have a voice! Washington D.C. and Brussels have great roles to play. They can pave the way to a green future in both continents. Politicians need to listen to their citizens and be with them along this pathway. We are all citizens, after all, that wishes for a better future for our kids, grandkids, and our planet.