November 14, 2009

Domestic Agendas, National Pride, and Global Warming

As renewable energy and carbon mitigation become, with equal zeal, the new darlings of venture capitalists and governments, I often encounter in my readings nationalistic fervor with which writers either praise their accomplishments, or denounce progress or lack thereof.

Yale Environment 360 recently published What Makes Europe Greener than the U.S.?, which laid out cultural and geographical differences between Americans and Europeans. In a nutshell, Europeans live in more dense and compact environments than the majority of Americans, where suburbanization depleted many urban centers and is encroaching on rural communities. Mass transit is more cost-efficient, energy conversation more common, and waste management more of a requirement in compact environments. Yet, the majority of comments from Americans was that the article was bashing the United States (when, in fact, it was exposing cultural and historical differences). Interestingly, another article in the same edition of the newsletter, entitled Greenest Place in the U.S.? It’s Not Where You Think had similar comments, but rather on a urban versus suburban or urban versus rural theme (it talks about New York City's density benefiting carbon mitigation and per capita energy conservation), rather than a U.S. versus Europe or Canada versus U.S. theme (the U.S. often seems to be the villain yet Canadian and European companies are more than willing to tap into its now considerable funding to abate pollution).

We incessantly compare the U.S. vs. Europe vs. Canada vs. China vs. India, etc. I believe that with the increased potential for economic growth and employment in clean technologies, the competition has increased further to take an economic dimension. Constructive competition should not be frowned upon. However, it seems to me that the same old debates, perceptions and stereotypes are seeping through at a time when we need to realize that this issue is not about regional, national or continental backyards. This backyard is global, and cooperation is required to mitigate risk and sustain growth.

1 comment:

  1. Some good point written.
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