The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is an unrelenting, gushing reminder of our unsustainable production and consumption of fossil fuels. It has jolted the nation as images tell the story of jobless residents, tarnished beaches and struggling creatures. The constant news coverage has prompted a nation-wide “gut check,” giving us time to ponder our current environmental course and leaving us to wonder, how much more of this can we take.
As we approach our Nation’s day of Independence, are we really free? The very things that spurred the industrial revolution, which began a few short years after the Declaration of Independence was signed, now threaten to cripple us. Are we finally fed up enough to insist that serious and comprehensive action take place? Are we willing to do what it will take to win this climate war and declare our independence once again?
Today’s environmental crisis is due in large part to government’s failure to protect our natural resources and impose meaningful regulations, contributing to a tragedy of the commons scenario. But the government is not solely to blame. As citizens of this planet we have to become an integral part of the climate culture shift and accept sacrifice in order to preserve a better future for our children. We have to be more than just ready, we have to be willing.
For years people have clamored to our shores in search of freedom, making our nation one of the greatest. Unfortunately, what has made our nation powerful and yet contributed to our demise, is greed. This greed is evident in the unethical and unsafe business practices of corporations like BP, who put profit before people and planet. It is echoed in our desire for the lowest price over best value and can be seen in our barbaric attempts to dominate nature. In all of these cases, we end up losing.
I am hopeful that the catastrophe in the Gulf will pull our nation together, sparking a paradigm shift that irrevocably readjusts our priorities, replacing greed with altruism and moving us towards a cleaner and more stable future. According to recent reports, like Rasmussen, a growing number of Americans support the idea of developing clean, environmentally friendly sources of energy, but most still aren’t willing to pay for it. Results like these reflect the underlying truth that igniting a true and lasting environmental movement requires a paradigm shift in our priorities. On this July 4th, it is not just about celebrating our history, but preparing for a new revolution.
When we talk about moving toward an economy that uses less fossil fuels, realistically accounts for carbon emissions and utilizes more renewable energies, it is important to recognize that it will inevitably be more expensive, at least in the short term. Let me be the first to insist that this move is essential to our long term health, survival and to the survival of our planet, but I am not entirely sure that we understand what it will take to accomplish such a complex scenario.
Opponents to climate legislation cite these higher costs as a tactic to deter an already fearful public, forcing us into further paralyzation, which does no good. Obviously, no one wants to pay more for anything, particularly in an unsteady economy marked by high unemployment rates.
The hard (but true) fact is that our economy is set up to burn coal for electricity and put gasoline in our cars. Coal (on paper) is cheap, plentiful and secure, resulting in our traditionally low electricity prices. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t without disadvantages, since it is dangerous to miners, damages mountains, and contributes to global warming. I don’t have to remind you about the dangers of our addiction to oil.
My belief is that out of this dark, uncertain time will emerge opportunity and that our initial struggle to achieve a sustainable independence will be worthwhile. For so many decades the United States has led the world in economic prosperity, business innovation and human opportunity. With our foundation shaken to the core in many respects, what will be our new legacy?
This Independence Day ask yourself, are you willing? Is the potential reward of a better future for your children and their children worth the sacrifice? Will our future be marred by more oil spills and the looming threat of compromised national security or will a new Declaration of Independence be signed?
No one ever said this was going to be easy.