U.S.: Epic Fail?

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This past week marked a sad day on the calendar for the United States. For those individuals focuses on sustainable living and making a difference, kudos to you for pursueing this despite a lack of national leadership. The United States failed to pass Climate Legislation, the most favored was a cap-and-trade system, this year. After Copenhagen’s Climate Summit left emotions reeling, there are a few trends to note. First, the business portion of the Summit was bombarded with signatures and declarations. Second, there was a distinct difference in the way Kyoto signers and Non-Kyoto Signers approached the conversation. Lastly, there is now a lasting sentiment of disappointment and in some cases international disdain for the United States’ lack of nation-wide action onClimate Change on a Federal level.

Is the U.S. A Climate Villain?

Yes and No. The United States is responsible for 25% of thegreenhouse gas emissions on an annual basis. This past month marked the first time China has surpassed the U.S. in energy usage, of course they also have a population that would morph the U.S. so it doesn’t keep them off the hook. The most proactive forces in the U.S. on Climate Change outside of advocacy groups have been state and local governments who inividually passed the Kyoto protocol and created the Chicago Climate Exchange as well as Government Agencies who are working to address the issue with or without legislative action. For instance the weatherization of homes that is being undertaken is going to significantly reduce energy usage nationwide, and since building inefficiencies are the single largest contributor to the U.S.’s emissions, this is important.

The real villain’s in this case are the politicians themselves.

With little to no discussion about climate issues, and more uncivilized cattiness surrounding the “debate” or lack there of, the true leaders had quite a road ahead of them. The fact that a few bills were formed is impressive given the concerted effort to continue to deny climate change’s anthropogenic source and to be accountable and responsible for the piece of the pie the U.S. makes up. No piece of U.S. legislation is perfect. It is touched by so many hands, special interests, and ‘deals’ that are irrelevant to the real legislation that the water-downed and battered version of a bill is at times utterly disgusting. Politicians who are supposed to be Civil Servants seem to have completely evaded that responsibility to pursue personal interests and gains.

The unfortunate part about this is two-fold.

First, the United States has once again failed to be a leader in the Climate Change arena, despite being its biggest negative contributor. Second, the United States will not feel, understand, nor suffer the consequences of climate change to the same extent as third world nations who minimally contribute to anthropogenic sourced climate change.

What we do know is that each of us through our personal actions, our professional life, and our political decisions can help guide better and more ethical decision-making into the future. Hopefully the disagreement next legislative term won’t be “if” something should be done on a national-scale, but instead “how” and “how soon”. If those questions come from a more honest place of understanding what sustainable living truly means and what being part of a global society really requires, then there is all the hope in the World to be had.

If not, then we better each use our individual voices and decisions to help create that world and environment if those representing us haven’t the sense, ethics, nor respect for all life on Earth to do so.

Photo Credit: Chris Madden.

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  1. July 25th, 2010

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