In my ideal America, we’d all be tree-hugging, granola-crunchin’ environmentalists living in log cabins powered by solar panels. Every child would have a deep reverence for nature. We would not view nature as a separate entity, but seek out our own place in it, aware of the impact our species has on the greater ecosystem. We wouldn’t make our choices based on fleeting impulses toward greed. We would care for the environment because of a deep connection to it.
Unfortunately for me and my tree-huggin’ compatriots, most people have their heads up their arses. I recall a conversation with a fellow SUNY student. She told me that she didn’t like nature. It was something to be feared. In her words, “It’s waiting to **** us over.” For this reason, she likes to remain indoors most of the time.
Young people are dissociated from the natural world. Most appeals centered on the intrinsic value of the environment fail miserably. The ecological disasters on the horizon demand a more pragmatic approach. How do we convince a nation dependent on overconsumption of resources to start caring?
Fear. We fear-monger until aggressive action is taken. This fear cannot be centered on destruction of the environment, but instead on economic collapse. We need to frame this in an apocalyptic light. Peak oil is perhaps the best bet in chilling Americans out of their cocoons.
Peak oil is the point at which maximum petroleum is extracted and the world sets into decline. Our infrastructure is based on these finite resources. Most of our goods are manufactured with petroleum (like plastic). If we reach this point without a strong contingency plan based on renewable energy, we won’t have the resources to implement large-scale changes. Society as we know it will collapse.
At this point we introduce the element of fear in regards to our biggest rival and financier, China. Nothing boils the blood of ignorant Americans like threats to our dominance. For all its faults, China is preparing for peak oil. While continuing to accrue new sources of natural gas and oil to fuel its existing infrastructure, China has developed effective solar and wind technology. Their solar panels are so effective, the United States set tariffs on their import!
By 2015, 9.5 percent of China’s energy portfolio will be renewable resources. While China can easily make these changes because it operates much like a giant corporation, our democracy is overrun with Big Oil lobbyists. Maximum extraction is beneficial to these interests. Large portions of the general public must express their discontent with detrimental policies like these or the United States will continue to dig its own grave.
My final words of wisdom: you may be content to sit in a windowless room and play video games for the rest of your life, but if you don’t join the cadre of voices calling for sustainability, the lights might go off. Then you’ll be sitting in a dark room with no Internet connection and no friends. That’ll be awkward.