I have oft been accused of looking for the silver lining in everything. I am no Suzy Sunshine but I do believe that looked at from the right perspective, problems can catalyze change. In fact, when things are going well, it is often hard to mobilize individuals, let alone policymakers to enact change. “Don’t fix it if it ain’t broken,” or “Leave well enough alone” typifies this mindset among the public and politicians.

Well, now it is broken–the global financial system, that is–broken, broke down, and working families are going broke trying to save their homes or curb their spending at a time when food prices are increasing faster than they have since the 1990s.

Recently the U.S. convened a summit with the G-8 and the G-20 to discuss to resolve the crisis and restore the global economy. Yet, the crisis is already having far-reaching effects, from increasing migration of Mexican workers  from the U.S. back too Mexico, to impending social strife in Asia as the export-dependent Asian countries begin to feel the economic slowdown as a result of the crisis (Johnson, Tim, Washingon Post, 11-19-08). Yet, another article noted that while China has now exceeded the U.S. as the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases (Cha, Ariana Eunjung, Washington Post 11-19-08) the country has an unexpected opportunity to remake itself into a cleaner, greener economy. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has promoted a “Global Green New Deal” that will make environmental technologies the new growth industry to jump start the economy. Economists and others note that during economic lean times, consumers reduce energy spending and other costs which means that fossil fuel use may fall.

President-elect Obama has a chance to use this crisis as an opportunity to rethink and renovate–to grow the green economy in the U.S. and promote technology and investments that will provide jobs and growth in developing countries as well. There will be naysayers who argue that we can’t afford this at this time. But, to the contrary, I would say we can’t afford not to rethink our global system and use the crisis to fuel a new type of greener growth.