Climate Change and the American Way of Life

The American way of life must be up for debate, while we still have the comparative luxury of having the debate at all. If we don’t change voluntarily, we will be forced to adapt to a much less cushy future.

We take so much for granted, and then get mad that climate change is attributable to human activities. No matter how many times a climate change denier will bring up the idea that there’s any debate at all on the reality of climate change, the 338th consecutive month of above-average temperatures is not a coincidence. We have reached 400 ppm of atmospheric carbon dioxide, which is not a milestone to celebrate.

Our economy and the associated way of life is based on abundant, cheap oil, but the effects of this reliance are not friendly to our future.

It’s easy for the U.S. to say, “oh, but China and India are just catching up to us in terms of coal burning and polluting because they’re growing!” and then write off our obligation to make a good attempt at ameliorating our own level of consumption. If the United States makes a solid effort at not only reducing our consumption, but also making alternative energies more economically viable, we would set a precedent that could be more easily followed by other nations. If we shrug and say, “well, we grew rich on the back of cheap fossil fuel, so everybody else should be allowed to, as well,” we lose the opportunity to deal with our own problem.

It is important to develop renewable and alternative energies, surely, but we also need to significantly reduce our dependence on energy–to make those new sources of energy stretch. We can wear a sweater in the house in wintertime. We can walk more, and demand better public transportation.

We have so much stuff available to purchase. We don’t need that stuff. For every kind of disposable stuff that we think we “need,” there is a reusable alternative. It is time to use both energy and materials more efficiently, both personally and nationally.

Just because there is still demand worldwide for more and more oil does not mean that we need to drop everything to meet that demand, whether the demand is in the U.S. or abroad. The fact that a kid demands more ice cream doesn’t mean that they’ll get it.

Times change, and the reality of the 1950s is different from today’s reality. We need to change with that reality.