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Lots of enviro fact finding on the radar this week in the form of two major reports and several public opinion surveys that point to a coming crossroads that’s fast approaching. Does humanity blow right through the intersection and run off the rails? Or do we make the right turn and drive into a new era of sustainability? That, dear Yorick, is the question...
The International Energy Agency published it’s annual summary of the global energy situation this week. The World Energy Outlook looks at the state of things around the world and is not so sanguine about what it finds. The burgeoning economies of China and India are getting as hungry for energy as ours is, and we all know what’s happened here where 4% of the world’s population has somehow and against all odds found a way to produce 25% of its greenhouse gases. Think about what happens when 33% of the world’s population develops a similar appetite. That’s essentially what the IEA does here, and believe me when I say this is not a story to read to the kids at bedtime. There’s a scary monster under the bed, and it’s called Inaction…
Meanwhile, just days earlier, the United Nations Environment Programme releasesd its Global Environment Outlook. It’s another tough read and not because it uses big words or is written in Flemish. Rather, it’s a fairly unflinching look at what the environment is up against and the many ways humans need to back off a bit. Still, unlike the IEA report, whose authors probably leapt off the nearest building ledge as soon as they shut off the printer, the U.N. maintains some level of optimism that we can do what has to be done. It’s not like we have no idea how to defeat this beast called unsustainability and have no other option but to hide quivering in caves. The knowledge we need is there. The question in the U.N.’s view is does humanity have the collective cahones to use it and can we summon the will to do what it takes to make the new paradigm it would create work?
Several new surveys suggest that we do and can.
The first was conducted by the National Association of Home Builders. It asked 800 respondents about purchasing a green home. 64% said that lower energy costs would be the most important factor in their decicion. But 55% said they’d also do it because it would be healthier. And about half (49%) of all respondents said they’d invest in green housing because it was the right thing to do. Though the wallet is still king where major green buying decisions are concerned (three cheers for $100 per barrel oil!), the survey results suggest that the desire to simply do good and be a good citizen isn’t all that far behind.
Elsewhere, the BBC got a bit more ambitious with its surveying and interviewed an impressive 22,000 people in 21 countries. (Now that’s what I call a cross section…) The study found that a little over 80% of respondents were prepared to change the way they live in order to prevent a climate crisis. As the BBC report on the research pointedly notes:
BBC environment reporter Matt McGrath says the poll suggests that in many countries people are more willing than their governments to contemplate serious changes to their lifestyles to combat global warming
And therein lies the frustrating rub. Because, again, it’s not like we don’t know what to do here. It’s not like we don’t have the answers we need and at least a start on the technologies required. We have all of those things. What we don’t have is courage at the top. We the people seem at this stage in the end game to be far more willing than most of our so-called “leaders” in government and industry to do what has to be done. So I guess the question then becomes how do we do an end run around the recalcitrant in high places and take charge? Because most of our politicians and our CEOs sure aren’t. And somebody has to soon.