Neal Peirce wrote on June 8th in the Washington Post, “ENVIRONMENTAL MOVEMENT NEEDS AN ADRENALIN SHOT.’ From my experience I totally agree. Widespread environmental action is now critical. The recently defeated global warming bill authored by Senators Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and John Warner (R-Virg.) bill to cut greenhouse gases and address climate change is another example of environmental stalemate and partisan bickering. Also this may show Americans are too self absorbed to address this planet-threatening crisis that everyone else in the world is worried about.
Mr. Pierce cites James Gustave “Gus” Speth, the dean of environmental studies at Yale but an outstanding leader in this profession. In his new book, “The Bridge at the End of the World” (Yale University Press) a long list of concerns. Americans suffer from major contamination of the majority of our water bodies, polluted living conditions in over three-fifths of our nation’s counties. Two-thirds of Americans live in counties that register pollution levels over EPA’s fairly basic standard. In the last forty years our miles of paved roads are up 53 percent, vehicle miles traveled up 177 percent.
In addition there is widespread soil erosion, loss of vegetation-and depletion of many other natural resources. Not only are the planet’s species disappearing at about 1,000 times the normal rates just look at our vanishing coral reefs due to climate change. One example is that the increased burning of fossil fuels is causing the loss of tens of millions of acres of forest in the U.S.
Speth references the culprit of environment on our United States, and wealthy, industrial countries consumer economies. Also he references the 63,000 multinational firms with 91 million employees. Simply our nation’s corporate world allows America’s future generations to pick up the tap because they promote consumer addiction. Yes, we will have to pay big time latter evident by the escalating price of oil.
Speth documents that global businesses get $850 billion of public subsidies yearly for their activities in agriculture, energy, transportation and more -- about 2.5 percent of the global economy. Increased profits are short changing addressing essential environmental needs.
Just look at the average size of American homes has increased 50 percent, electricity consumption per person 70 percent, municipal wastes per person 33 percent since our first Earth Day 38 years ago. More, more, more will result in less and less in our future unless we save now!
The question Speth raises is how do we encourage consumers by suggesting “greener” lifestyle choices. People of all walks and at all levels must lessen their consumption. We have to change the bottom-line and invest in the well being for countless generations. Programs that stimulate conservation in every setting of our country can spark a new American “Green Revolution.” Otherwise our earth’s future health will be jeopardized by our consumer addiction. Can American’s everywhere awaken to this monkey on our back? Let’s reactivate the American Spirit so to save our country from ruin!