This past week saw the annual celebration of Earth Day, a day to celebrate the great natural gifts we enjoy as citizens of planet Earth.
Environmental issues are enjoying a new popularity in 2007. Call it the revenge of Al Gore. But the challenges are as old as history itself. One of the best books I have read in the past couple years was “Collapse” by Jared Diamond, a professor of geography at UCLA. The subtitle of the book is also its principal premise: “How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed.”
In the book, Professor Diamond describes civilizations like the Mayans, the Anasazi or the Greenland Vikings who failed to survive because they literally burned through the resources like water or wood which sustained them. Without the ability to conserve or replace precious assets, they vanished. Sound familiar?
Today, our society is living in a manner that simply cannot be sustained by future generations. The environmental impact is too great. Only actions, not talk, will solve this.
Let’s look at just one environmental conundrum. America leads the world in the consumption and emission of carbon, the cause of global warming. We know that. What are we going to do about it?
In light of Federal inaction, states are free to create their own policies, whether regulatory or market-based, to fight carbon output. If succesful, those policies can be a model for the Federal government to use on a macro scale. States like California have moved forward aggressively to do just that.
What are we doing in Virginia? We have no state program mandating emissions control. No state program mandating fuel efficiency. No state program requiring the conservation of open space and wetlands which naturally preserve our air quality. Nada. Nyet.
Virginia should be the leader. We have unique natural resources in the Blue Ridge Mountains and Chesapeake Bay that define our state. Our watersheds literally formed the cradle of this nation.
Our forefathers (and mothers) survived 400 years ago, because they learned how to adapt to the New World in its natural state. It was not easy; they had to change their way of life. In the 21st century, we must also adapt so that the generations 400 years hence can enjoy the same Virginia we have today.