Friday, July 18, 2008

Time for Change... (Not the kind in your pocket)

Well, living in Norway has provided me with plenty of down time, to read, run, walk, kayak, and learn and think about the world as it is. I am in no way trying to declare my own innocence, rather spark intelligent discussion, and possibly inspire change.

Regardless of your political affiliations and loyalties there are a few things that are undeniable in todays world. The United States is the largest consumer of petroleum in the world and the country is in dire need of change on many levels. The economy has gone to shit, (pardon my French), I can personally attest to the fact that the dollar has weakened by nearly 20% from my arrival in Norway in 2007. There are many factors which can account for this decline, but our excessive consumption and costly campaigns over seas can not be helping.

Let's face the facts, there is no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. We have reached Peak Oil production. The fact of the matter is that gas prices, food costs, transportation, and the cheap plastic things you buy for kids are all going to cost more in the not so distant future.

Although I know the Climate Change issue is controversial in some regards, there are several truths, the planet is getting warmer, the ice caps and glaciers are melting, and weather patterns are changing in more extreme ways. Obviously the planet goes through natural cycles of change, but I would say the careless way which we have treated the planet for the past 50+ years(since we had a clue about finite resources) has not positively affected the planet, its ice caps, or its weather patterns.

At the root of nearly all issues of environmental abuse lies the fact that we have been completely reliant on cheap foreign oil, while neglecting to develop the proper infrastructure to deal with an ever changing world and finite fossil fuel resources.

A great deal of my inspiration for writing this came from a New York Times article on what was going to happen to General Motors Corporation. GM has been one of the biggest corporations in the United States for 90 years, but their future is bleak, and their 110th birthday may not come with the company in the same shape or form, if it exists at all. General Motors, in my opinion, has had nothing but opportunity to develop and change its vehicles and move towards efficiency and alternative fuels. The first fuel crisis happened nearly 30 years ago, but GM has continued to manufacture gas guzzling cars. As recently as the past 10 years, GM has continued its short sighted policy, in hopes of making the quick buck, probably at their own demise. The 1990's saw a huge push from domestic auto makers for the big SUV, with GM leading the way, Suburban, Denali, Tahoe, and the vile Hummer to name a few. Had GM taken a different approach, as few as 10 years ago, seeing the rising fuel costs, perhaps their future would look more promising. Like him or not Jimmy Carter was right on in his pushes for environmental reform, and his statements about the United States abundant oil consumption.

The fact that I am living in a country that still produces enough oil for its own consumption is another inspiration for this article. Despite the fact that gas should be abundant and cheap here, it costs nearly $3 a liter, that is about $11 a gallon. As well, you surely don't see, save for the very rare, Hummer riding down the road. The SUV is replaced with the spacious station wagon, or van. As well, I imagine more than 70% of the vehicles here run on diesel. Now throw away your previous notions about diesel vehicles, because a modern diesel engines are quiet, relatively clean, and incredibly efficient engines. For example, the 1.8T Gas powered Volkswagen Passat gets maybe 29mpg on the highway, while the 1.9L Passat Turbo Diesel gets upwards of 40mpg. This is not a new thing, but the American auto industry, petroleum companies, and federal government(who have been in bed together for a very long time) have refused to bring these efficient engines to market in the US.

Essentially the point I am trying to get at is that the United States, and the world as a whole, are in desperate need of change. If we refuse to change, as James Howard Kunstler says, "It is at our own peril."

Al Gore gave an incredibly poignant, inspirational, and powerful speech July 17, 2008 on the imperative need for change, check it out here (Watch it whether you agree or not)

Now I may not agree exactly with everything that Mr. Gore has to say, but I do think that he more than has the right idea. In addition, I think that in order to appeal to a broader audience Mr. Gore has sugar coated part of his challenge. I believe that if we are not energy independent by 2018, our country will not exist as we know it today. If we can change and build this infrastructure all the jobs in these renewable energy industries, in regards to creation, installation and maintenance, by their very nature can not be outsourced to foreign countries.

All of my recent readings, and experiences abroad have really gotten the wheels turning. As a result, I have committed to personally reducing my fossil fuel consumption. I hope this synopsis can inspire thought, discussion, and most importantly change.

For those of you who absolutely have to have some eye candy, here ya go...

An old fashioned American Meal(Meatloaf, Garlic Mashed Potatoes, and delicious Norwegian grown carrots...Thanks for the tips Mom

Coming out of the Pearly Gates

Cruising the flats...

"The Government today announced that it is changing its national symbol to a CONDOM because it more accurately reflects the government's political stance. A condom allows for inflation, halts production, destroys the next generation, protects a bunch of pricks, and gives you a sense of security while you are actually being screwed."

Thanks for reading,

Don't be Scared to leave Comments

1 comment:

MCP said...

Hey dude nice post and I mostly agree with what you have said except you have stated two things as fact (two out of the four) which that science I have read at least refutes. While the Arctic ice caps are melting the worlds largest ice mass with 90% of all frozen water on earth, Antarctica, is actually gowning in size. Don't be fooled by all you hear of the Ross Sea melting and melting it is... the Ross Sea is only a small part of the ice mass in total which is growing. The second is that there is more extreme weather events today... this is total nonsense with scientific studies actually show the total number of extreme weather events has slightly decreased over the last 50 (maybe 100, I forget) years. I have also come to believe that the so called 'green house gas effect', while valid in its own right, is not at all responsible for the warming of the planet but if Al Gore and the likes want to use it to do some good then who am I to complain. Much the same way I don't complain when they ban smoking in pubs because of so called 'secondhand smoking deaths'. All that aside however our over reliance on oil is very concerning and something should be done about it. It is encoring to hear Al Gore talk so confidently about our ability to solve these issues... until now I have only heard pessimistic views on the subject.

Two books I recommend you read (if you have not done so already). The first is: The Chilling Stars:The New Theory of Climate Change by Henrik Svensmark and Nigel Calder which is fiction but still entertaining and the second is State of Fear by Michael Crichton which is non-fiction but all reference to facts are correct. They are both good reads and both give different perspectives on global warming