I believe in Yankee Ingenuity and the Market
Everywhere you look these days, there is some new information about the damage we have done and continue to do to our planet and its inhabitants. There seems to be a growing trend to try to change the situation but, at this time, we’re mostly just paying lip service. We haven’t gotten serious yet. We Americans are still in the grip of inertia. But, when we get moving, we are a formidable force.
While still very concerned, I am heartened by the increasing number of Americans expressing concern about this issue. When Americans get behind an idea, a cause, a TV show (American Idol, for goodness sake!), a style, whatever…..we do it, support it, try it, watch it, wear it in a VERY BIG WAY.
Historically, we Americans have come up with many inventions to improve the quality of our lives, increase productivity, and cure diseases:
Of course, these and subsequent inventions are directly associated with our present situation; but, the fact that they were invented at all supports my theory that we can stop and maybe reverse some of the damage to our atmosphere if we put our minds to it.
Also, since Americans are by far the biggest per capita consumers of energy and contributors to pollution globally, it seems only fitting that we be the ones to lead the way in reversing our present trend.
Since none of us wants to give up all the convenience and comfort we’ve grown accustomed to, here are just a few of the things I hope to see invented by an American:
• Truly biodegradable plastic so we can still buy products in individual containers like soft drinks and bottled water.
• Really large vehicles that can haul big things or lots of people but don’t pollute (electricity derived from nuclear or solar energy, maybe?)
• Water reclamation systems that allow us to take nice long, hot showers or baths without polluting or wasting water
• Metal recycling/reclamation plants that are so efficient traditional mining is no longer cost effective
• Energy-producing plants that run on garbage (or all those biodegradable packages)
• My favorite – Energy-producing plants that run on carbon dioxide and put the good stuff back into the atmosphere!
These are just a few things on my wish list but they would make a fine start. When we Americans get motivated to initiate real changes in our laws and our habits, these and other ideas will become profitable. Entrepreneurs around the world will latch onto them. That’s where the market comes in. When there is money to be made, new methods will be easy for us to embrace.
Just now, I’m reading about a group called Natural Capitalism Solutions. They are working with corporations (including Wal-Mart – can you believe it?) to help them change their way of doing business so that they help the planet and its inhabitants while making money for the stockholders. Of course, the employees of Natural Capitalism Solutions are earning salaries, too. See how this can work?
Also, I was pleasantly surprised by recent project by the American Idol production company to raise money for poor children around the world. See? Pop culture can be our friend in this effort.
Citizens of the earth are so connected that good ideas will fly around the world and be improved upon again and again. Just as we’ve taken technology and transformed communications, we can transform energy use and pollution. We’ll change our world, our climate, our lifestyle…..and make money in the bargain. What a very American concept!
Also, I believe there will be unforeseen benefits. When we start cleaning up the atmosphere and cutting down on waste, maybe we’ll start looking at our all our habits from a new perspective and make some other changes. Maybe more of us will start walking or biking instead of taking our cars everywhere. That will help combat our national obesity problem. Maybe we’ll make the conscious decision to work closer to our homes which will mean fewer emissions from our cars and more time with our kids.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that we’ll come up with one big idea that will solve all our problems. Or that the US will do it alone. It’s going to take lots of people all over the world working on this from all angles. I’m just counting on our typical “Can do!” attitude to kick in now that we are beginning to realize the gravity of the situation.
I was not a particularly avid science student but I do remember a teacher saying “No matter is ever created or destroyed – it only changes form”. So, instead of changing carbon fuels into energy with pollution as a byproduct, we change some other kind of fuel into energy with a neutral byproduct. Someone (more likely a bunch of individuals) will figure out how to do that if we get enough brains working on it. We humans love a good challenge.
Since I’m not a scientist, I won’t be much help with the actual work. My job is to talk about this challenge to everyone I meet and get as many people on board as possible during my lifetime. When I was out taking pictures of my grandsons in the bluebonnets last weekend, I was struck by the beauty of nature and those fresh little faces. I suddenly thought “It’s not too late. I believe we can do this.”
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.