Written by Laura Braun, ESLLC 2016-2017
The United States of America is , according to many people, the greatest country in the world. However, I am quite doubtful that these people know the facts, especially those concerning our ecological habits. Few recognize that:
With only 5.1% of the world’s population, North America consumes just over 24% of global energy. United Nations Environment Programme, 2007. Global Environment Outlook 4: Summary for Decision Makers.
Materials consumption in the United States is on average more than 50% higher than consumption in the European Union. World Resources Institute, 2005. Material Flows in the United States: A Physical Accounting of the U.S. Industrial Economy.
About 40% of the nation’s rivers, 46% of lakes, and 50% of the estuaries are too polluted for fishing and swimming. American Rivers. 2004. America’s Most Endangered Rivers of 2004: Ten Rivers Reaching the Crossroads in the Next 12 Months
The U.S. population has the largest ―ecological footprint in the world, with a greater impact on many of the planet’s resources and ecosystems than any other nation on Earth. Center for Environment and Population, 2006. U.S. National Report on Population and the Environment.
So maybe, in my opinion, it’s time for us to get off of our high horse and start to understand we have room for growth, and our environmental footprint is probably the most urgent and important matter we should face first.
But who should we follow? What proof do we have that other countries can achieve their green goals and improve in an environmental sense? Well, many places are actually a lot better off and have handled this crisis in a more responsible matter, and not surprisingly, those who succeed in handling their ‘eco-problems’ also tend to have a more stable and efficient economy, government, and all around well-being. The stars of this are the Europeans, and in particular, The Danes. Copenhagen, Denmark has been announced to be the first carbon-neutral capital city in the world in the year 2050. The Danish government and people lead when it comes to sustainable projects, strategies and policies, wind energy, and an effective bicycle culture. Whereas the US focuses and prioritizes other important but less pressing issues, Denmark upholds a key goal of creating a green and sustainable society. According to the Official Website of Denmark,”More than 20 percent of Denmark’s energy already comes from renewable energy, and the goal is to reach 100 percent by 2050,”. And not only do the Danes lead in their eco-friendly tactics, but their poverty-rates, health insurance policies, and average income are all significantly better off than the US’s.
How are the achieving these tremendous goals? Unlike the US, Denmark has created a Climate Policy Plan (which focuses on action on a national level and action at a European level), an Energy Strategy and the Smart Grid (that focuses in on renewable energy systems) and The Climate Change Act–see below. The content of this Act includes the establishment of an independent, academically based Climate Council, an Annual Climate Policy Report, and a process for establishing new national climate targets. The laws the come with these two initiatives create boundaries and a new infrastructure that is vital to the must needed economic evolution, which we need just as much, if not more so. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) tells us that, “the world’s greenhouse gas emissions need to peak as soon as possible and no later than 2020 in order that the temperature does not rise more than two degrees above pre-industrial levels.” This tells me that is the US doesn’t start to change now, the damage we create will become extremely damaging and irreversible.