Friday, October 26, 2007

Globalizing American Ingenuity

One of the most important things I think to remember about this global climate change problem is that it is global. America, as the world leader in CO2 emissions, must take a more pro-active stance in fighting this worldwide problem. I think that part of the problem in America is that we aren’t seeing the affects as much as other countries so it hasn’t hit home as much so to say. Katrina was the first major event due in part by global warming and many count it out as something that would have happened anyway or blames something else as its catalyst. While they may be right to some extent, there are many events in other parts of the world that are directly correlated to global warming and many other places that will suffer far greater if a warmer future is what is in store for them.

On the bus just this morning I overheard a conversation between a women and a young Australian student. She mentioned to him that it wasn’t too nice a day because it was raining. He quickly responded to her that in much of Australia rain was such a good thing because they had been in a drought for nearly a decade. He explained that in many places there was water rationing because the increased heat from global warming has caused precipitation to drop and wells to run dry. He is not the first person I’ve heard this from. An Australian principal, Andy Best, said the same thing a few weeks ago. He told about how his hometown was having problems with water and subsequently with food supply. His hometown was not very far south of the major city of Sydney. Australia has picked up the reigns locally and nationally and is working hard at reducing emissions of greenhouse gases. They have independent companies that for free will go into a homes and reduce the amount of energy they use even as detailed as changing light bulbs. This not only saves the homeowner money, but also helps to reduce the reliance on power and subsequently fossil fuels. Australia is trying to change, but where is America?

Another place that will be greatly affected by global warming is the country of Bangladesh. With nearly most of its country less than 100 feet above sea level, a rise in sea level could destroy nearly their entire country. There country has 150 million people, about half that of the United States. Other islands in the south pacific and the Caribbean such as Haiti and Cuba, could be devastated as well. And Cuba is a place that deserves least to be ransacked by global warming.

Cuba has been called the leader in organic farming. They are likely one of the only sustainable countries in the world. They have made it a point to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and to reinstitute organic farming procedures and curtail their use of pesticides. In 2005 they had 5,000,000 of the light bulbs in the country replaced with low energy light bulbs cutting their lighting energy requirement by a third for the country as a whole. The Cuban government just recently began the Solar Institute in Santiago to find ways that they can take advantage of the suns power. This is a country where they are trying to eliminate tractors and use animals in their agrarian lifestyles. This is a country, where approximately 30% of all there energy comes from biomass, mainly sugar mills. Cuba is a country where they have, with the government at the helm, successfully increased their forested lands by 4% and that’s only the beginning. 55% of their forests are protected and 15% are used for scientific studies. I reiterate that Cuba is the only sustainable country in the world, yet with a slight increase in sea level they would lose 15 to 25% of their entire country.

These are certainly not the only countries that will be affected by global warming. All countries will be affected, yes including America. We are currently the largest agitator of global warming and it is time that we start acknowledging that and change our ways. There are many ways that we can do this even the American way: with a profit. Our country is gifted with the greatest higher education system in the world and with properly focused energy this gift could lead us to the forefront of this new technology making it cheap and accessible. It may seem like it is such an undertaking, and it is, but like John Hennessey, the president of Stanford, said it is “a series of great opportunities disguised as insoluble problems.” Now is when we should take American ingenuity global and heal not only our position as a leader, but the world itself.

-Michael Johnson, Cornell University Student

1 comment:

Goodwin said...

You make some really interesting points, but I don't know if it's possible to pick a "first" major disaster to be noticeably influenced by the earth's changing climate; and even if it were possible to do so, I don't know that Katrina would be it. You could certainly argue that Katrina, and in fact the 2005 hurricane season as a whole, is one of the most persuasive pieces of evidence to date that current ongoing climate change is having a significant affect on our planet, particularly if you are presenting this to Americans. But as you say, if you were to ask an Australian if they've noticed the effects of climate change, they would almost certainly say yes, they've been dealing with unusually severe yearly droughts for some time.

-Win Wharton