I do not like the term “tree hugger.” For decades now, the environmentalists have been the brunt of many jokes by the media and popular culture. To be considered an environmentalist meant that you were a vegan who made compost heaps and biked everywhere; someone who talked to plants and worshipped mother earth. Currently, all that is changing.In the past, those who felt concern for the environment and the earth were mixed in with hippies and radicals. But now it’s become hip to be seen as ‘Green.’ People plaster the word across t-shirts and tote bags. They attend concerts held in the name of nature. A decade ago, this all would have been less publicized and unadvertised.
What’s changed is the American outlook. Global warming has been addressed by the government in such a high volume that it can no longer be ignored by the everyday citizen. More importantly, gas has topped $4 a gallon and hit Americans in the one spot which can truly make them listen to anything: their wallets.
The economy is crashing, by all accounts, and the public doesn’t like it. Average people have very little hope of personally doing anything for the sub-prime crisis, and their struggles are sometimes dwarfed by the massive incompetence of government-backed institutions and overspent banks. The single citizen can, however, complain in a highly lucrative way. People are driving and purchasing cars much less, and this has caught the attention of many higher-ups.
The days of the SUV are past, and the newest and brightest rave about the eco-friendly hybrids. In response to all this visible angst, the auto companies are pushing with lightning speed for a renewable source of energy strong enough to power a soccer mom to and from practice with a carload of kids in tow. I can’t help but point out that there has been more progress, and more noise made about this welcome improvement, in the past two years than there had been in the previous decade.
And what I mean by all this is simply that the American public is a mindless, shortsighted mess.
Had we all been involved, had we all been adequately concerned for many years previous, things right now would be a lot different. Building and financing forms of alternative energy is expensive, and to expect the government to magically whip up sufficient funds to change it all at once without a significant tax hike is ludicrous. Americans had a chance to voice concern and improve the methods of energy consumption many times over, but failed to do so. If there’s no immediate impact on your paycheck, why look to the future? Why consider how to keep a good era of economic prosperity going strong?
Every time an SUV was rolled off the lot, every time huge houses with unnecessarily high vaulted ceilings and quickly plastered walls were built over acres of farmland, the American public hammered a nail into their own economic coffin with huge demands for gasoline and heating fuel. It’s never been a secret that the oil we use is largely imported, and of a finite supply. With no regard for what was easily predictable, it’s no wonder things ended up the way they did.
The current crisis has been blamed on oil companies, politicians and foreign dignitaries. But the truth of the matter is, the culprit is much closer to home than Americans like to think. We have no one to blame for all this but ourselves.
Lisa DellaPorta is a third-year student majoring in English and English education. She can be reached at LD631585@wcupa.edu.