President Schumpp Passes Major Environmental Bill

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, Michael Schumpp.

Upon reading Hot, Flat, and Crowded by Thomas L. Friedman, I pondered a quote that my economics teacher told the class by Business Week’s William Ruckelshaus, “Nature provides a free lunch, but only if we control our appetites” (Business Week, June 18, 1990).  Prior to opening this book that has now changed my outlook in one short week; I always assumed that everything in nature was accessible, exploitable, and infinite.   I never truly comprehended that the edificial trees that sway so peacefully against the summer sky, actually serve a dual cooling purpose, protecting the front of my home from the sun’s direct heat. The rivers that I enjoyed gazing upon along the 8 mile bike path that stretches the entirety of my community, were actually the residences of suffering fish and increasing levels of hazardous pollutants.  The seemingly pristine air that I so desperately gasped for after a strenuous run, was actually engulfed by layers upon layers of dangerous CO2, whose chemical components were neither beneficial to the Earth’s sustainment nor to my otherwise healthy lungs.

I’ve always possessed an innate desire to one day aspire to become the President of the United States.  One may classify this goal as naïve or armature, yet, I believe that it is one of great conviction and courage.  Embarking on the laborious journey to become the nation’s leader and world’s commander-in-chief is not a facile undertaking.  While reading this book the headlines became vivid in my mind “President Schumpp passes major environmental bill…20 years in the making.” It is a sad fact that the United States, the supposed leader of the free world, is unable or unwilling to pass much needed and well-thought out legislation within a timely manner. The thought of beginning a project centered on alternative energy such as wind, which SoCalEd tried to bring to the greater Los Angeles area, is a process that will take 11 years! That is 9 years wasted scrambling to obtain permits for a job that takes two to three years to initiate and complete.  It is no wonder why companies, such as First Solar Inc., looked to Germany and the European Union when trying to launch their company, after several failed attempts to acquire the necessary funding, here, in their home nation of the United States. It is unfathomable as to why the U.S. Congress, in recent years, has not made measurable leaps at combating the climate change crisis. Furthermore, it is baffling that with nation facing great hardship, especially with the economy in shambles, that the elected officials would not be trying feverously to pass legislation that would open up the opportunities that this Energy Climate Era has bestowed upon us.  As in the 1990s with Clinton, IT was launched and the entire economy boomed, so why not now when we are in the worst recession since the Great Depression, do we not open a new sector of the economy; renewable energy creation.  This would create demand for workers, which would in turn lead to a decrease in unemployment, causing higher disposable income levels, increasing consumption, and therefore leading to an overall betterment in real Gross Domestic Product. Why not start it now, with all the resources necessary in our backyard?  Don’t we as a nation want to restore our image of prosperity and opportunity worldwide?

Prince Salman, of Saudi Arabia, states that there is still time for the U.S. to regain a favorable rating once again, and it lies in leading a global climate change combative. We as a nation and as a people need to be “better” than our elected leaders.  We need to outsmart them, surprise them, and show them that when it comes to defeating something that we know is right, the American citizens will do almost anything.  I agree with Friedman; there has to be motivation, passion, and excitement, as there was during the Civil Rights Movement; a sense of purpose. I additionally believe that creating a market for renewable energy is well overdue, and if it is not created soon, our hopes of maintaining a world-renowned economy will fall short to developing nations, such as China and India.  Despite the aforementioned point, the population is expected to increase by 2.5 billion people by 2050, with developing nations experiencing the largest increases, therefore causing nations such as India, or China, to be unable to sustain such growth.  The striking part of this statistic is that the increase in the world’s population is approximately equal to the number of people who inhabited the earth when my mother was born just 50 years ago!  This widespread growth will lead to the emergence of 300 more cities, which in my mind adds up to 300 more tourist destinations, 300 more areas for carbon emissions to harm the earth, 300 more places that biodiversity is now destroyed, and 300 more air bubbles that are no longer “healthy” to consume.

However, mass urbanization is not the only issue facing the planet, technological production and circulation has also strained the environment.  Every morning when I wake up I check my phone, turn on the television, and go to the computer.  This has become such a necessary part of my daily routine, yet I never took my ability to use such technological resources for granted. As I sit at this computer screen, writing this very reaction paper, it is awe-striking to realize that, due to the flattening of the world, a new Chinese citizen is opening up a laptop, while in India a little girl is jubilantly skipping after receiving her very first cell phone.  This is the harsh reality that Friedman discusses because owning more technology will further exacerbate the energy and power available and expected in order to live a comfortable life.  Yet, we as Americans cannot blame the developing world to want what we have enjoyed. It is not the right way to go about the situation.  However, as Americans we must rise to the challenge and make technology more energy efficient, so that even though more devices are added nearly every minute, there will be that much more power waiting after all purchases are complete. In addition, I am definitely a fan of the heat.  Spring and summer are my favorite seasons, and truly taking advantage of all that nature has to offer helps to provide a long anticipated sense of relaxation. Unfortunately, the Earth’s temperature has risen by 1.44 degrees Fahrenheit, and prior to reading this novel that rise would not have fazed me.  Yet, when placed into perspective, that increase is actually quite substantial.  Now I like the heat, but if the Earth continues to sweat, then I fear that my daily runs, walks, or bike rides, will have to be done on a stationary machine in the comfort of my home, watching a green screen that gives me the illusion that I am outdoors.  The biodiversity loss that traumatizes the earth daily is disheartening, due to the constant crowding, which in turn leads to a greater demand for infrastructure.  Species, such as the Yangtze River dolphin that once enjoyed a safe lifestyle in China, are now extinct.  The most shocking statistic is that every 20 minutes a new species goes extinct, yet what is even worse, is that we, the human race, are driving the world’s longest surviving inhabitants into an abyss, unable of return. Moreover, the climate change that scientists, teachers, and individuals speak of is human based, causing higher temperatures, floods, and more extreme weather patterns, thus causing certain schools of thought, such as that natural disasters are acts of God and transforming them into realizations of human destruction.

How could we be so selfish?  One American consumes enough energy for 100 people and we build Green Wal-Marts in inconvenient locales, forcing people to shop at less energy efficient stores closer to their areas of residence.  Additionally, it is disappointing that the American government has told the Saudi Arabians and other Middle Eastern oil producing nations to merely “keep the pumps open, the prices low, and do not harm Israel,” but allows those very governments to exploit their own people. This allowance leads to the degradation of women in Islamic nations, a disgraceful practice that becomes seemingly irrelevant in an effort to control our own interests. In an era when selflessness is integral and action is vital, the United States must set a new precedent to be followed.  Developing nations such as China must strengthen their villages by bringing new technology and energy to rural families, therefore connecting these citizens to life in cities, thus causing attenuation in the crowding effect. Imagine a world of ‘McMansions and infrastructure encompassing the entire earth’s surface.  Soon astronauts anxious to explore the hidden wonders of the earth, the serenity, the land formations, the pristine beauty of home from afar, will unfortunately be blinded by the billions of new lights that will have resulted from an amelioration of unsafe energy planning. To offset this possibility, governments ought to join together in an effort of global innovation as well as friendly competition, creating the potential for swifter research and development. However, if the governments of the world choose to act independently, believing that their actions will lead to inconsequential ends, then their leaders and citizens must be taught a lesson in Climate Change 101.  As more people choose to live lifestyles that mimic those of Americans, and grow into the “Americums,” or carbon copies, of the planet, it is scary to realize that the world’s consumption would reach a level that would exist if 72 billion individuals inhabited the earth’s surface.

Does living in a world with increased floods, wildfires, hurricanes, natural disasters, and other bizarre weather patterns that are irreversible and potentially unmanageable sound appealing? Does partaking in deforestation, thus emitting ten years worth of CO2 per tree, the telling your children to go out and experience the “fresh air” seem fair to a generation who may actually be better off playing inside all day? How can we allow the destruction of the Indonesian tropical forests, which hold many of the worlds’s endangered species, to be destroyed with modest opposition? And finally, how can we as Americans, allow energy poverty to permeate the poorest nation’s people, who are forced to champion obstacles such as power outages, violent uprisings, and isolation, with little or no technology reaching to their dilapidating villages? My answer to these questions is simple.  In the United States, we tend to be preoccupied by personal success, individual prosperity, and consumed by modern technology.  Hardly ever do we reach for a remote to turn on the latest news channel or pick up the closest book.  Instead, our nation is the sole place on earth where our adoration with personal gain spreads faster than the devastating climatic issues. Despite the atrocities that exist, there is some promising news.  For instance, Denmark currently enjoys a flourishing economy, having ceased their dependence on foreign oil, allowing the sector for renewable energy to grow by 70%. In addition, the other day I found myself roaming around New York City, enjoying the beautiful weather, when I began to notice the taxi system that had been emphasized within the chapters of this book.  I counted 22 hybrid vehicles in 3 blocks; a sign that cleaner air was now a priority that would one day sweep across all the world’s cities, tourist destinations, and remote villages. It is people like Professor Supritna in Indonesia who has won the protection of the orangutans in the tropical forests and the young girl Suzuki who traveled all the way to Brazil to deliver a speech warning the adults of the damage they are doing by acting passive, who are truly making a difference. The military must also be commended for their efforts to “out-green” al-Qaeda, because by manufacturing more energy efficient weaponry, and altering the living quarters, less power is being exploited, as well as more lives are being salvaged that may have otherwise perished in IED explosions, had the military needed to travel further distances to obtain dirty fuels.

Upon culminating the 17 chapters that filled the emptiness between the two hard covers, I began pondering the issue that if solved would be the most monumental.  Finally, I concluded that fostering our knowledge and resources in a direction that would conflict with the success of petrodictatorships and the spread of Middle Eastern oil would be our best bet. This realization is dependent on a conglomeration of issues.  To begin with, our sense of national security would be strengthened since our leaders would not have to negotiate with “dictators” who are unwilling to sacrifice precious oil for cheaper prices.  Additionally, ending our dependence would lead to less military causalities as well as a dwindling of enemy extremist groups.  This is because groups such as al-Qaeda earn a profit from the money we spend on gaining access to Middle Eastern oil.  If any candidate for public office released an ad insinuating that our enemies will continue to be funded by ordinary U.S. citizens if we do not pass renewable energy legislation, I bet that that candidate would win by a landslide. Thus, the plausible legislation would result in a diminishing demand for oil, and an augmentation in demand of alternative sources like wind or solar. The government, as Friedman suggested, could levy a tax or implement a cap and trade system on carbon emissions, therefore creating even more of a reason to steer in the opposite direction of oil usage. What person does not want a healthier nation for their children and healthier planet that would allow prosperity to continue? What U.S. citizen is willing to abandon their principle of freedom for all, just to remain quiet? I certainly am not willing to hold my tongue when it involves the suffering of Arabian women or the vanishing of freedom.  Unfortunately, the First Law of Petropolitics is always in place, since when the price of oil rises, another individual is forced to sacrifice more and more of their freedom. Additionally, if the U.S. government took the time to delineate the benefits of ending foreign oil dependence, members of Congress would realize that the economies of the region would suffer immensely.  Of course one should never wish for the suffering of another people, yet, this would force the Middle East to follow Lebanon, the only democratic nation in the oil-guzzling region, and embark on an effort to discover an alternative power. If Desert Islam (more extremist) began to once again transform into the older Mediterranean Islam (more modern), then secular ideas and peace talks may once again illuminate the world stage. Due to the aforementioned points, the necessity of sparking an Energy Technology Revolution is imminent because the research and development of cleaner renewable resources will ultimately lead to a new system of power in the United States and around the world.

For too long, the Dirty Fuels System that consists of coal, oil, and natural gas, has polluted the air and biodiversity that surrounds us.  This has lead to negative externalities such as pollution, in which society becomes unnecessarily burdened with, and therefore must tackle, the consequences. As Friedman states, this is no longer a “green party” but rather must become a green revolution.  Code Green can no longer be a phrase that sounds trendy to say nor should wearing green-inspired apparel simply be the latest fashion fad. Green must not only be defined in terms of a way of life, simply as a trend, but rather, it must be the only way of life.  Green cannot fall through the cracks and be written in history books as an activist movement that failed.  If we do not address these problems, there will no longer be the paper to fill the books, and the color green as we know it will cease to exist.   In its place Crayola will be creating new colors such as infrastructure slate, blacktop gray, black coal smog, and petro ebony. Forget the runoff that mountains will produce, due to the melting of snow, and for that matter forget the snow. I wonder if in twenty years children will know what snowflakes are.  Where will Santa be coming from, when the North Pole blends with the Arctic Ocean? The truth is “green-collar” jobs won’t just help destitute communities, but society as whole.  For far too long the citizens of the United States have sat on the sidelines watching Congress debate climate change and each time pushing it off, in the “we will let our children deal with this one” attitude. Well the sorry fact is that by the time the children are old enough to deal with this, the Earth will be too hot, too flat, and too crowded, which is a risk that is too dangerous to take.

“Can Bolivia be the new Saudi Arabia?” After hearing this phrase radiating from the living room, I quickly proceeded to the television to find World News with Charlie Gibson on.  He was discussing the discovery of lithium in Bolivia’s salt fields that could potentially harness the new energy required to develop the technologies needed in the Energy Climate Era. In hearing this story, I realized that Friedman’s warning was substantial and real.  If the U. S. does not act quickly, then it is a conceivable belief that our economy may fall short to those of other nations, as the progression of this era is accelerated. Should this happen, our once invincible attitudes will no longer thrive, since our economy and stature will continue to plummet.  The shores that immigrants once saw as golden will now be thought of as dirt-filled, our gates as closed, our innovation as primitive, our nation as developing, and our people as unwilling. However, if we work with nations such as Bolivia to provide the talent required to harness this energy, then we will be graced by our fellow world citizens, and our economy will once again flourish to unreachable heights.

Then a few days later, on a trip to the Bronx Zoo, in New York City, I proceeded to take a ride on the monorail.  In past years I have been rather uninterested, riding the monorail in an effort to avoid blisters on my feet or fainting from heat exhaustion.  This year, however, the feelings of self-preservation vanished, and in their place was this anxious desire that craved more knowledge. As we were escorted around the perimeters of the zoo, each animal that was pointed out was either endangered, existed only in zoos, or was not expected to thrive in the wild for too much longer.  Looking around though, I realized the greatest endangered species were the Homo sapiens.  The quote from the novel rang in my mind; “every day we look in the mirror and see an endangered species.”  This was the truth.  Many of these animals were our source of nourishment, or killed termites and other insects that were ruining natural forests which included the majority of the earth’s species. As a people, humans often are unaffected by inconsequential circumstances that seem irrelevant.  However, greenhouse emissions and our plummeting environment are not irrelevant or inconsequential.  In fact, the people of developing nations are feeling the full brunt of this climate storm.  These individuals unfortunately lack the resources and equipment necessary to overcome this issue, yet they do possess the willpower and passion to tackle it.  This is when world economic superpowers such as the United States and the European Union, who possess the research facilities as well  as resources necessary, ought to step in, in a global effort to combat and defeat climate change. Just as in the 1700s when revolutionaries, fed up with the British tax system dumped tea into Boston’s harbor, developing nations will be dumping American and European imports in an effort to prove their distaste with our inaction.

It may sound a bit naïve or false to say that reading this book has changed my outlook on the environment.  To an extent that is true and the reason is that after culminating the 412 pages of information that every human being ought to know, the novel did more than just change my outlook. I realized that the book dug to my core interests. I did become a more learned person regarding the environment, but it evoked a passion within that was always there but lied dormant for 18 years. My friends grew tired of my constant blurbs about the novel and how we, the human race are hurting our home, and so they decided to read it with me. The discussions became intense with consensuses and disputes, yet a common agreement regarding the desperate need for action. We can change this world and begin anew; just as the primitive inhabitants millions of years ago were forced to learn the processes of eating, bathing, and shelter. Combating climate change is a science that parallels the habits of the cavemen. Unpredictable weather patterns, the extinction of species, and increased CO2 are relatively new obstacles, but they should be no harder to solve with than it was for the caveman to learn how to first eat.  Overtime innovation was applied, and now the citizens of the world consume their food using utensils. Now, we must call upon our own scientists and ask them to use innovation in creating solar panels, wind turbines, and other renewable resources.  At first there is no doubt that these alternatives will be imperfect, but at least working to better our environment will be a start.

Even if I am never President or in Congress, I hope to have an important role in overcoming this energy crisis, because what the world is experiencing now is truly a crisis.  Every university and high school should invest in Thomas Friedman’s Hot, Flat, and Crowded, since as more individuals are informed, the more potential there is for a solution. A crisis implies that there is a lack of education and interest in solving a much sought after issue.  Wearing green and placing plants in the home will no longer cut it. The only time that the world will succeed is when it realizes that we are all interdependent with one another as well as the earth around us. In this Energy Climate Era, our worst enemy is ourselves, and our greatest downfall will be our inaction. Let us not take for granted the stars that our children wish upon or the nature that our parents were able to enjoy. Let us not allow our air to be lethal and our water to be hazardous. Let us not allow our race to perish and let us not harm the species that are striving daily to coexist with us. Do we want our rivers to dry and our canyons to flood?  Do we want Africa to be snow covered and the Arctic to be boiling? Do we want the sparkle in our pristine mountain tops to vanish or the white-sand coastlines to be obliterated?  More importantly, do we want generations after us to long for walks in the park and a vision of the sea? Do we want in 50 years schoolchildren having to look up pictures of tigers or zebras because they cannot recall from memory the appearance of the world’s animals?  The answer to all of these questions is hopefully a resounding NO! And so we must act as if our lives depend on it, because they do, along with the survival of the world’s biodiversity. If we must be the Re-generation, let the future civilians be the Eco-generation. No one wishes for a world that is inhospitable.  The solutions to this lie not in the politics but rather in the hearts of a people hoping that their leaders will not disappoint them, and will not cause the demise of the most massive civilization ever to exist on the earth’s surface.  Species: Homo, Genus: sapien, Family: those willing to see the earth outlive their own existence, Order: to act now, Class: one that does not permit the existence of a divided population, Phylum: energy efficiency, Kingdom: Planet Earth, Domain: our land and seas, and Life: survival.

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2 Responses

  1. Hi Michael,

    Can’t begin to tell you how proud we are to have you for a nephew! Your Nan has been crying with joy for the past two days and your Mom and Dad are so very proud of you – I’m sure you can imagine how they feel. Keep up the good work! By the way, we are all proud of you even without the essay Mr. President!

    Love,
    Aunt Ro

  2. Very proud to be a relative to you, Michael Schumpp.
    From Germany my best wishes for your generation of coming leaders and presidents. Some may smile about your enthusiasm, but it is being cool und uninvolved and minding our own business only that brought the world in the fix it seems to be in. Mind you, the “world” as we know it will exist happily without any human being. We are not important for the Earth, yet it is utterly important for us.
    So stay this comitted. And I pray for you to have many on your side. — Bettina

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