The story of how the smoke that comes out of cars is destroying the planet is somehow similar to the story of how the smoke that comes out of cigarettes are destroying people´s lungs. In both cases, an activity that was previously considered harmless turned out to be damaging. In both cases, awareness came slowly and by the time most people were convinced a great deal of harm was already done. And in the case of Global Warming the guilty party turned out to be the Americans. But an unusual element of Global Warming is that, until it was discovered, I would have said that, in spite of what Europeans believe, the Americans were more environmentally minded than the Europeans. Now the opposite is true.
The reason why I believe that Americans had been doing a better job than the Europeans until the issue of carbon emissions arose has to do with how Americans organized themselves to preserve the environment creating enormous national parks and areas in which construction is not allowed and wildlife is protected. In the area known as the Hamptons, even though it is considered the equivalent of the Cote d´Azur for the Americans, there is tremendous presence of wildlife and agricultural land. In the South of France, or in the Spanish or Italian Mediterranean, you can see tremendous overbuilding everywhere and very little wildlife and agricultural activities left. But even though the Americans were leading in striking a balance with the environment, the tables turned when carbon emissions were found to be the most evil pollutant of the planet. While New York City or San Francisco are surrounded by a lot of undeveloped land and wildlife, what is particularly bad about the habits of inhabitants of this cities and even worse about the inhabitants of the rest of USA is their energy habits. Never mind the fact that the average American car’s emissions almost double the average European car. Other than transporting themselves in huge cars, Americans have unreasonable heating and air conditioning standards, and a series of other habits that show very little concern over the environment. One of the most unusual ones that I noticed among my American friends who have babies is putting their babies to sleep driving around. Think of it, a 300 HP SUV is being used to drive around a suburban area to put a baby to sleep. Another one is a love for lawns. The energy and pollution that is generated by taking care of lawns in this area must be enormous, especially because the engines that lawn mowers use are extremely dirty.
But even though Americans look like laggards now, with tremendous energy consumption and very little alternative energy generation, since USA is the innovation engine of the world I would not be surprised that as Americans finally focus on the Global Warming problems, this country will contribute a great deal to the necessary technologies that the whole world will need to adopt to deal with it.
Posted on December 23, 2010