America needs to walk the walk

day_after_tomorrow_ver4Today we continue our series of the winning essays submitted to Dean of Freshmen, Fred Siegel.  These freshman were selected from over 300 of their peers to attend a dinner with Dean Siegel and a very special guest.

Our featured essay of the day is by freshman, Daniel Morales.

It was on the plane ride home from Colonial Inauguration in Washington D.C. to Orlando, Florida that I first opened Thomas Friedman’s “Hot, Flat, and Crowded”.  As always, I read the back cover of the book to see what was in store for my reading experience. In all honesty, before I read “Hot, Flat, and Crowded”, I knew as much about the climate and global warming as any other American. The first image that popped into my head was the scene from the movie “The Day After Tomorrow” where the Statue of Liberty in New York City is completely submerged in arctic waters. Beyond Hollywood, climate change seemed to me like a distant, non-threatening issue that just served as political fodder during election time. I used to think “Yes, we have to be more environmentally friendly; but beyond saving the Iberian Lynx what other benefits can going ‘green’ have?” First, allow me to say in my defense that it’s not that I was apathetic to the issue of climate change, renewable energies, and global crowding. Rather, I did not see it as a critical issue in the interest of the United States other than preserving local wildlife. As a conservative, I often had been suspicious of domestic policies dealing with energy independence and climate change because they have been so closely associated with the negative connotations of “evil big government” and “repressive regulation”. Four hundred and twelve pages later I can say with confidence that the issues of climate change, energy independence, and global crowding are very much in the interest of not only the United States, but the global community. Instead of viewing climate change and reliance on dirty fuels as a complex problem, I now see them as opportunities in disguise. American innovation and leadership in researching new energy efficient technologies can give the United States an incredible global advantage for the future. If we do not start to take initiative to invest in green technologies, other rapidly developing countries, such as China and India, will beat us to the punch. Thus, I naturally would expect any fellow conservative to embrace this free market competition to develop green technology. The market for green technologies will only expand over time and it is critical for the United States to become the epicenter of it quickly. In the last chapter “A Democratic China, or a Banana Republic”, I was most struck by the powerful statement “We have exactly enough time-starting now.” That is how I feel the American people should approach the problems of warming, flattening, and global crowding. We need to comprehend that solutions are possible and our fate is not written yet. However, the United States and the international community need to have a sense of urgency in developing the solutions necessary to avert disaster.

“Leadership is not about ‘after you’. It’s about ‘follow me’.” That statement in the chapter “Can Red China Become Green China” really struck me. Just as the United States is the flag bearer of freedom and democracy in the world, the U.S. must also lead in inventing new, green energy solutions. How will the world react if Americans continue to chastise other nations for not becoming “green” , but the United States continues to hog the energy buffet? There thus needs to be a leadership effort on the part of Americans to direct the world in the right direction during the “Energy Climate Era.” Our need to lead is not only important for slowing the negative effects of dirty fuels in our World, but to reinvigorate American innovation and prestige around the world. I was especially concerned when an inhabitant of the Middle East stated to Thomas Friedman that the young generation in his country has only seen the United States wage war. I now feel that the United States has to begin waging innovation in green technologies to regain prestige lost in recent years. Certainly the United States that fought and saved the world in two world wars could have the capacity to lead in this new “Energy-Climate Era.”

Throughout “Hot, Flat, and Crowded” I was shocked at the connectedness of issues, such as energy independence, and the serious problem of terrorism around the world. Friedman refers to the transfer of oil wealth to repressive regimes as “petropolitics.” I was stunned to see Friedman’s presentation of the striking correlation between the price of oil and freedom. It became rather obvious that the more we fill up the family car at the local 7-11, the more power and influence we give to repressive regimes like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the Islamic Republic of Iran. If we look at Iran, we see a regime funded by oil wealth that just this past June brutally cracked down on election protesters who dared to challenge the legitimacy of Ahmadinejad’s “victory”. It does not matter whether one is a conservative, liberal, independent, Republican or Democrat.  All Americans should see how achieving energy independence is beneficial for not only the environment, but for the United States strategic interests in the world. Imagine if the United States and other members of the international community were able to import less foreign oil from Middle East hot spots.  Terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda, Hezbollah and Al-Qaeda that depend on funding from oil wealth states would lack critical sources of funding.

While the issue of petrodictaorships profiting off oil wealth is a crucial reason the United States has to become energy independent, I was also struck by Friedman’s arguments made about energy poverty. Many Americans expect their laptops and televisions to turn on no matter the time of day. In “Hot, Flat, and Crowded”, Friedman states that over 550 million people , or 1.8 times the population of the United States, experience complete blackouts every night.  When I read that statistic, I had to read it over and over again to really comprehend the large number of people that included. When I contemplate all the people without energy every day around the world, I think of all the wasted potential and talent that could be sprung to life with electricity.

In October of 2008, I was selected by my high school to represent our Model United Nations team in the University of Central Florida Model United Nations Conference. One of the issues to be addressed was deforestation and climate change in general. While researching about the topic, I happened to come across the same video of a twelve-year old Canadian girl speaking at the 1992 earth Summit in Brazil. I too, like Thomas Friedman, was absolutely struck and moved emotionally hearing a child speak about the threat of climate change. Severn Suzuki boldly stated “ You teach us: not to fight with others, to work things out, to respect others, to clean up our mess, not to hurt other creatures, to share-not be greedy. Then why do you go out and do the things you tell us not to do?” In this quote lies an important message to the United States and the international community. We must walk the walk, and not just talk the talk. I whole hearty agree with Friedman that it’s simply not enough for candidates in politics to broadly claim “We need to act on gaining energy independence through clean, green technologies.” What America needs is for these political candidates to act on their campaign rhetoric and to put the United States on the path of reinventing itself. America needs to start walking the walk and not just talk the talk.

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