Saving the Environment – We All Need to Give

President Obama’s inaugural address has gotten me thinking about responsibility and sacrifice. The President said what we have all known for a long time: that Americans are too profligate – spending money we don’t have, burning energy we can’t afford – and that a day of reckoning would come. In fact, the President made clear that the day of reckoning is here: “our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions — that time has surely passed.” As a result, I am planning a series of entries on this topic, on the theme of sacrifice. Today’s item: the environment.

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal (regular readers know I love my WSJ) discussed Cape Wind, which aims to put 130 windmills off the coast of Cape Cod, reducing greenhouse gas emissions an amount equivalent to taking 175,000 cars off the road. A no brainer project, right? Wrong, because the wealthy folks who have their weekend houses on that part of the Cape don’t want their views marred by windmills out on the horizon. They have been protesting the project and putting up legal barriers, enlisting the help of their most powerful neighbor, Teddy Kennedy, whose family has a fabled compound in Hyannisport.

Massachusetts is famously liberal, and based on my two years in Boston, the people who weekend on the Cape would consider themselves environmentalists. They recycle, they install solar power, they drive their Prius to Whole Foods to buy local produce. But when it comes to windmills in their expensive view, suddenly they aren’t so green. This is where they need to listen to our new president and stop protecting their narrow interests. They need to sacrifice a little for the good of the environment.

Broadening the scope of this discussion, if we are going to defeat global warming, everyone is going to have to chip in. The NIMBY (not in my back yard) protests that stall projects like new power lines, or wind farms, are going to have to stop. Of course, nobody wants a giant tower in their back yard, or a windmill right off their front porch. But nobody wants temperatures to go up several degrees either, or ocean levels to rise to a point where Cape Cod weekend houses are under water. Global warming is a major problem that affects everybody, and we are all going to have to sacrifice a little – give up our SUV, or allow windmills near our weekend house – if we are going to solve it. As theologian Sallie McFague put in her new book regarding climate change, “either we will all make it together or none of us will.”

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4 responses to “Saving the Environment – We All Need to Give

  1. Those Cape Cod weekenders need to start seeing the forest for the trees.

  2. I wonder how the Dutch felt when those darn windmills were being built in the 15th C?Complaints about view obstruction? We’re all going to have to get with the program and contribute (and, thus, survive)! Looking forward to the upcoming posts in your series.

  3. Yes, it’s high time for responsibility and sacrifice to be a vivid theme and call for action in our society.

    In order to get the Cape weekenders, Range Rover drivers, and the like on board, I wonder if “sacrifice” can actually evolve to generosity?

    Spinning words is not my idea or intention, but rather, gaining more commitment and actual behavior change. Sacrifice feels like “loss” to most. While they have plenty to lose (like the damn Range Rovers), generosity provides a sense of benevolence.

    If the goal is changing mindsets and behavior, then we need multiple approaches. I’m just thinking that generosity and giving is a path that might appeal to this specific audience more than sacrifice.

  4. Indeed, generosity will sound better to this audience, and probably most audiences, than sacrifice. But I want first to be clear about what needs to be done, and then we can move toward ways of making it happen.

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