Conversion of a Common Sense Conservative

Today 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 author, Thomas Friedman.

Our featured essay of the day is by freshman, Richard Ingebretsen.

I am a common- sense conservative, and I have been one for nearly all of my life.  As a result, I have been on the opposite side of the global warming and environmental debate for some time, claiming that global warming was either entirely false or a natural occurrence that had nothing to do with man.  I believed the well-being of our economy was more important than anything else. The main reason for my mindset was that I had never heard a convincing argument for global warming and environmental caution. I read Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring and was unconvinced by her arguments, feeling that her claims regarding DDT and other pesticides were sensationalist, unsubstantiated by significant, credible scientific data, and resulted in the deaths of many people due to the banning of DDT and the rise of Malaria in Africa. I felt the same way about the people who cautioned about global warming, since their claims were just as sensational and promised even greater harm to mankind with the crippling of our economy. What is more, I felt that many of these individuals were disingenuous at best and hypocritical at worst, condemning those who drove SUV’s and warning against the dangers of carbon emissions  while flying around in a private jet or riding in a limo. Furthermore, I feared that since the people who were advocating global warming were predominantly liberal at the time, I feared that their solutions would be liberal as well, with increased government control and the castration of our free economic system with burdensome regulation.   Mr. Friedman has convinced me that the threat of irreversible global climate change and loss of biodiversity caused by global warming and the wasting of natural resources is real, and that we are the main perpetrators. What is more, Mr. Friedman has demonstrated what I believe is the only credible and acceptable way to fix these problems:  The combination of robust use of a free economic system, assisted by targeted government intervention, and natural human ingenuity and spirit.

Mr. Friedman completed my conversion by appealing to my sense of duty and patriotism in making America the dominant force in the world again, and by demonstrating how green technology and policy could be the next economic boom for the US and the world.  After reading Hot, Flat, and Crowded, I have also come to the conclusion that being environmentally friendly is the conservative thing to do, because even though many of these new green policies will be a large step away from the status quo, they will most certainly be less of a step than irreversible global climate change, and at least new green policies offer numerous benefits to the US and the world.  This is a simple choice which only requires common sense.

Additionally, Mr. Friedman makes several excellent suggestions for what the US needs to do in order to undergo the Green Revolution and thoroughly explains and analyzes most of them. One plan that I wish Mr. Friedman had elaborated upon more was the involvement of the military in the development of green technology. While Mr. Friedman did demonstrate how the military has already begun to reanalyze the cost of sticking to the status quo in terms of using dirty fuels and inefficient technology and has begun to develop greener technologies, I fear Mr. Friedman overlooks what I think could become one of the best ways to make the US green.  Mr. Friedman notes that green technology research lacks funding and capital, and that when it does receive funds the purse strings are held tightly. Defense spending, on the other hand, accounts for almost 21% of the US Federal Budget and is almost never denied the funds it needs, no matter what other budget issues arise. My conclusion is that we should fund green technology research through the military. The United States government should strive for its military to be greener, requiring vehicles to be made more fuel efficient or run on alternative fuels, designing new, greener ways for bases to be powered, and with all of these things required to be enacted using fewer natural resources.

This plan has several benefits, the first of which is that by giving green research to the military we have ensured that some of the brightest minds will work on it since defense industries have some of the best research facilities, engineers, and scientists in the entire United States. Looking back, some of the most revolutionizing inventions and technologies have been developed by the military or have come out of its conflicts. These inventions include Penicillin, radar, computers, satellites, and rockets, and all of them have assimilated into and been of great benefit to the rest of humanity. What is more, the military, as Friedman discusses, has already shown an interest in conservation and has already started developing green technology with systems that are similar to the ones Mr. Friedman advocates. I was amazed by how similar his description of the energy internet, the connection of all electronic appliances, customers, and providers, was to the military’s attempts at net-centric warfare with all of its soldiers, satellites, and vehicles interconnected and sharing information to become more efficient.

The other main reason why it makes sense to combine the military with green research is that it will ensure that green research will always be funded, as no politician in his or her right mind will try to cut military funding drastically. What is more, green technology requirements will probably require that more facilities and more workers spread across different congressional districts, meaning congressman will become even more protective of these projects and fight harder to keep these projects alive and well funded. Just think, if congressman fought as hard for green technology research as they have fought for the MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, America would be the greenest nation on the planet, exporting these ideas around the world.

If America combines defense spending and research with green technology, it will develop the leadership support it so desperately needs to succeed in the Green Revolution. The expansion of leadership is the final benefit of involving the military in green technology research because many in the military go on to be leaders in business, politics, or even just their local communities. If, as military leaders, they have already been exposed to and convinced of the benefits of the Green Revolution, they will then be in positions to continue it and expand it, which is what needs to happen if the US is ever going to lead the fight against global warming.

I acknowledge that this plan is not a silver bullet and alone will not have the immediate or wide- reaching effects that will be required to prevent catastrophic climate change. I wish we could make the drastic policy changes and investments that are necessary to make this country green and fight global warming; however, this is not practical due to its political controversy and fiscal cost. I believe this plan, however, is a viable and practical start, attractive to both ends of the political spectrum, which is a viable means to wider-reaching reforms.

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