One of America’s greatest flaws is the burden it feels to help others in need. Don’t misunderstand me—altruism is one of the better virtues to be had among a people, but only when it is ubiquitous among all actions of a country.
Look at any of the recent wars that America has been engaged in; Iraq was both a mission of security as well as “altruism,” to protect ourselves from a country that might have ties to terrorist organizations and to relieve a suppressed people from the grips of an evil tyrant and erect democracy.
And that is what America would like its mantra to be—something about a helping hand and a fortuitous stance when evil is present.
One key area in which America does not take this stance is in relation to the environment. I might be a bit of cynic, but one might go as far to say that the treatment the environment has received on the American political stage is deplorable.
It is a fair-weather subject. It will only be addressed when it can no longer be put on the backburner.
Not too long ago at a Mitt Romney rally, a brave member of the crowd shouted “What about climate change? That’s what caused this last storm!”
The audience immediately began to boo while he was shoved out of the auditorium, his sign torn from his hands. The crowd then began to chant “U.S.A.!” over and over, with the fervor of Gregorian monks, expecting the incantation to magically make the question go away. And miraculously enough, it did.
Although I have leftist inclinations, I will not overlook the fact that throughout his campaign, President Obama spoke very little about climate change, which, considering his history with the subject, is disheartening.
In order to even begin addressing the conundrum of climate change and our subsequent duties, we as the inhabitants of planet Earth, and especially America, must realize that the environment cannot be treated as a partisan issue.
The environment concerns all of us and should not find more support in one camp or another.
In order to overcome our factious nature, we need to obtain the facts of climate change objectively and from one source. We need information from environmental scientists who go into the field to find solutions to the prevalent problems rather than those who have the knowledge but are monetarily driven by big business to overlook it. We need devotion to the truth rather than devotion to political ends.
Only when this is achieved can we begin to become more responsible world citizens. America most certainly has more responsibility than the average country considering our citizens lead in per capita outputs of CO2.
There is undoubtedly a bit of irony in the fact that, as Americans, we love to help the meek, feeble victims of natural disasters, yet when presented with the cause and the possible solutions to fewer world crises, we would rather protect our economic ventures.
It is certainly Hobbesian of us, this need for glory. We love altruism, but only when it paints us as heroes. Admitting our faults is not our greatest strength.
So if we really loved our neighbors, in any true sense of the word, cared about them and not our image or how beneficial helping them would be to increasing our economic fortitude, then perhaps we could withstand the economic hit for the greater good. But at this point, along its road to perdition, America is not ready to accept that.
However, this does not relieve those of us who know the facts of our duty to create a better tomorrow.
For those studying environmental science who love the major for itself, not what gains could be reaped from tarnishing it, are undoubtedly the key to the future.
For the educated citizen like myself, I wish I knew exactly what I could do. Given my lack of expertise in the field, there is little I can do on the side of research.
Yet, being a liberal arts student with the resources and skills that I have, it seems that my duty is to educate and inform, advocate and donate.
I must write and read all that I can, in order to stay informed and do the informing. In conjunction with this, I must do the small tasks, like recycling, composting and conserving energy, that when combined, could make a great deal of difference.
We have the chance to save ourselves from the strife that will undoubtedly be caused by following a “business as usual” model of GHG emissions. The only question is whether or not we will.