National Energy Action Month – October 2014

What does the Persian Gulf War have to do with National Energy Action Month? Plenty as it turns out.

Oil Well Fires in Kuwait 1991The first Persian Gulf War was in its 3rd month in 1990 when President George H. W. Bush issued the first presidential proclamation declaring October as Energy Awareness Month, now called National Energy Action Month.

National Energy Action Month – Presidential Proclamations

In 2012, while researching a post about National Energy Action Month, I became intrigued by presidential proclamations for national this, that, and the other thing month. Proclamations provide tiny windows into the issues and policies of the time, past and present.

This year, I thought it would be fun and interesting to trace National Energy Action Month’s 25-year history through presidential proclamations.

President George H. W. Bush Initiates Energy Awareness Month


President George H. W. Bush initiated Energy Awareness Month by issuing a presidential proclamation on October 2, 1990.

“As current events in the Persian Gulf region have so forcefully reminded us, we must skillfully balance our determination to sustain economic growth; our need to use energy efficiently and to reduce this country’s dependence on oil; and our commitment to a safer, cleaner environment.”


For 1991 Energy Awareness Month, President Bush again emphasized the need to use energy efficiently, reduce our reliance on foreign oil, and develop domestic energy sources.


The 1992 proclamation highlighted President Bush’s National Energy Strategy which called for the development of new technologies for oil and gas exploration, nuclear power, renewable energy, energy efficiency, and alternative fuels.

President Bill Clinton Carries on the Tradition of Energy Awareness Month

1993 Bill Clinton carried on the tradition of Energy Awareness Month with his 1993 proclamation themed “New Energy Choices for a Changing World.” It highlighted “green” computers, energy efficient appliances, and the Environmental Protection Agency’s new ENERGY STAR program.


The 1994 Energy Awareness Month proclamation referenced President Clinton’s “The Greening of the White House” initiative and stated the necessity of conserving resources for future generations.


In his 1995 proclamation, President Clinton alluded to three decades of disruptions in global oil markets and connected the word sustainable with energy policy.

For the next 13 years, the remainder President Clinton’s presidency and all through President George W. Bush’s time in office, Energy Awareness Month went dark.

President Barack Obama Brings Back Energy Awareness Month


In 2009, during his first year in office, President Barack Obama brought back Energy Awareness Month, this time as National Energy Awareness Month. His proclamation covered green jobs, policies to support clean energy, and introduced the term climate change.


The 2010 proclamation referred to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, new auto fuel-economy standards, and the Executive Order directing federal agencies to cut energy use.


President Obama switched things up with a new name in 2011, National Energy Action Month, but mostly rehashed what he had said in the previous year’s proclamation. This time, he called on Americans to take action by making cleaner energy choices.


America's All-of-the-Above Energy Strategy ImageIn his 2012 National Energy Action Month proclamation, President Obama refers to his now famous all-of-the-above energy strategy. He also announced that his administration had opened up millions of acres for domestic oil and natural gas exploration.


President Obama’s 2013 proclamation recounted U.S. accomplishments in oil exploration, renewable energy deployment, and new nuclear power plant construction. It acknowledged high gasoline prices and stated the need to reduce oil imports and eliminate fossil fuel subsidies.


Natural Gas Drilling Rig on Pennsylvania FarmlandFor 2014 National Energy Action Month, President Obama touts his all-of-the-above energy strategy, states the U.S. is now the number one producer of natural gas in the world and mentions how the Better Buildings Challenge is promoting energy efficiency in commercial buildings.

Interestingly, although the presidential proclamations above span more than two decades and exhibit varying rhetoric, they share some common ground: energy security, domestic energy development, energy efficiency, and balancing these with the economy and environment. Over the years, new terms were introduced such as green, sustainable, clean energy, low-carbon, and climate change. All the proclamations call on Americans to work together to secure our energy future.

National Energy Action Month – Take Action

One of the things I like about national months is that they provide a time frame for us collectively focus on something specific and take action. A previous post, Energy Empowerment – October is National Energy Action Month, offers some practical and perhaps fun ideas on actions anyone can take for National Energy Acton Month.

Last year we combined National Energy Action Month with Halloween and tackled our household energy vampires.

Blue Water Drop with RipplesThis year, since we live in drought-stricken California, we are concentrating on the connection between energy and water. For instance, by reducing our hot water use we also reduce our natural gas (fossil fuel) use. We do this by taking fewer and shorter showers, doing only full loads of laundry, and washing dishes in the dishwasher instead of by hand.

Share what you are doing for National Energy Action Month.

Reader Note: click on a year link above (e.g. 1990) to read the presidential proclamation for that year.

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Zugunruhe – Book Review

Zugunruhe Book CoverSelf-discovery meets green building in Zugunruhe: The Inner Migration to Profound Environmental Change, by Jason F. McLennan, written with Mary Adam Thomas. It’s an odd combination but it works.

I came across Zugunruhe during the 2013 Bioneers Conference. The book was sitting on a table set up to showcase books by the keynote speakers, which included McLennan. Earlier in the day, I’d watched his Living Buildings and a Regenerative World presentation. I’m a green building fan and was intrigued by the concept of living buildings so I bought the book.

Book Review

Zugunruhe is a German word pronounced (zoo gen ROO ha) meaning “migratory restlessness” which describes the behavioral changes many animals go through prior to migration.

Part self-help guide and part green building treatise, Zugunruhe calls to the green warrior in each of us.

McLennan weaves stories from his own life and others into the lessons in the book. He gives a lot of advice without sounding preachy or authoritative. Sometimes his ideas fly in the face of convention or put a different spin on a well-known word or concept.

  • In today’s world of specialization, we need more polymaths, people with broad and diverse knowledge.
  • Failure is something to look forward to.
  • Forgiveness should happen prior to transgression.
  • Conflict is good.
  • A true warrior uses restraint and diplomacy first, and only fights as a last resort.

Zugunruhe contains highlights from McLennan’s experiences as an architect in the green building movement.

Readers will explore the difference between “not failing” and succeeding through the lens of the building industry, discover the design knowledge rose, and get a glimpse of the Living Building Challenge.

McLennan defines a living building as one that functions as elegantly and efficiently as a flower; generates its own power, captures, treats, and recycles water, operates pollution-free with no toxic chemicals, and is beautiful.

Imagine living in a world where living buildings are the norm and people flourish alongside nature.

The Bottom Line

Jason F. McLennan is an architect, CEO of Cascadia Green Building Council, and founder of the Living Building Challenge, an international green building program. Mary Adam Thomas is a writer with a commitment to environmental issues.

When I read the sentence, “This book is not about guilt.” on page 28, I knew I was going to enjoy it, and I did.

McLennan and Thomas’ style of writing are conversational and thought-provoking. I often found myself pausing to listen to my own inner dialogue or laughing over messages that could have been written specifically for me such as the drawbacks of being a perfectionist or too process-driven.

Many of the green building segments make sense in the context of the chapters, but others seem like marketing plugs promoting the Living Building Challenge or McLennan himself; however, rather than detracting from the book it makes it more like a real journey with twists and turns, side trips, and dead ends.

On the surface, Zugunruhe may seem like a book for treehuggers and green building professionals, but it pertains to personal transformation of any kind. I recommend it to anyone interested in making a change in her or his life and willing to do the work to change.

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”
– Mahatma Gandhi

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