Notes on the Atrocities Like a 100-watt radio station, broadcasting to the dozens...
Friday, April 23, 2004
A week or so ago, when we had our visioning roundtable, I wrote about a green economy. Because I think it's such a fine idea, I'm reprinting it in honor of Earth Day. Will I keep reprinting it until the idea takes hold? You never know.
What's the biggest issue confronting the US over the coming century? Terrorism, war? No, it's environmental catastrophe. This is partly a national issue (aquifers across the Southwest are being rapidly depleted), and partly an international issue. But we can't envision a world in which radical change won't be necessary to address these needs. The countries that begin changing soonest will reap the benefit as the world shifts off fossil fuels and coal and moves toward alternative, non-polluting energy sources.
The last great economic boom disproportionately benefited the US because the innovations that created it were developed in Silicon Valley. A national investment in green technologies would accomplish a number of objectives: it would position the US in the global economy of the future; it would create jobs; and it would create federal revenues to further strengthen our position in the world.
In 1961 (2?), Kennedy challenged scientists to put a man on the moon in ten years. A liberal vision that challenged America to put an end to petroleum-based engines in ten years would spark a similar technological renaissance. Targeted incentives and tax breaks for companies participating in such a program, combined with the incentive of creating the technologies that will power the 21st Century, would shift the dominance away from the cluster of oil-based technologies. It would also have the very strong fringe benefit of reducing our dependence on Mideast oil (which in turn would force those countries to modernize, and cut off the main source of funds for the repressive oil sheiks who run the countries).
The future is green. It can happen at the moment of environmental crisis, or it can begin now. One of the main reasons the US has failed to address the environment in any serious way is because the prospect is too frightening. But regarding it as an opportunity--and acknowledging it as our inevitable destiny--changes the calculation. Preserving the environment is a perfect metaphor for the liberal mission--and is an ideal vision for the 21st Century.