Taking Stock

(#261) – I receive hand-delivered, e-mail, regular postal mail articles and frequent comment that most of the energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies are proving to be uneconomic and even the cause of national failure. I read them carefully and respond to the sender as best I can.

Here is a reminder to everyone of where the United States as a society is today by Gus Speth, former Dean of the School of Forestry at Yale University and now professor of Law at the University of Vermont.  In his brilliant, haunting and upbeat, America the Possible, he writes that when we compare how our society performs in key areas with the other most advanced industrial democracies, we now have:

  • highest poverty fate, both generally and for children;
  • greatest inequality of income;
  • lowest social mobility;
  • lowest score on the UN Gender Inequality Index;
  • worst score on the UN index of material well-being for children
  • highest expenditure on health care – fully 50% of the entire world’s budget for health care, but also the highest infant mortality rate, prevalence of mental health problems, obesity rate, percentage of people going without health care due to cost, consumption of antidepressants per capita, and the shortest life expectancy at birth;
  • next to lowest score for student math and only slightly better science and reading performance;
  • highest homicide rate;
  • largest prison population in absolute terms and per capita;
  • highest carbon dioxide emissions and highest water consumption per capita;
  • lowest score on Yale’s environmental performance index and largest ecological footprint per capita;
  • lowest spending on international development and humanitarian assistance as a percentage of national income except for Japan and Italy;
  • largest military spending both in total and as a percentage of GDP;
  • largest international arms sales.

By comparison, Germany  assumes a very heavy financial and political responsibility for the Union of European States, is decommissioning its nuclear power facilities, pledges not to use the hundreds of years of coal reserves, continues to invest heavily in renewable energy and has a work force that works 1000 hours less per year than the average US wage earner and has health, vacation and pension benefits. Because they lead in another direction, they are often cited in the information sent to me as making terrible mistakes for investing so heavily in the sustainable economy.

Take another look at the catalog of miseries and failures above that describe what we have done to ourselves in the last 30 years during which the US economy grew in GDP by several trillion dollars.  Our neighbors are wounded, suffer tremendous economic insecurity and we now face climate threats to our national and biological existence. Climate change may only allow us another 30 years to jettison the radical errors we have made and build the sustainable society that works both economically, environmentally and socially.

Sullivan The Possible starts with organizing ourselves to invest in the abundant opportunities and resources of our fabulously beautiful landscape and wonderful neighbors. Safe, affordable renewable energy and the jobs and savings it provides are ready to lead the way to a better future.

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