Economic, political, scientific environmentalism

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Chris Wegner
  • 81st Contracting Squadron commander
I've never been the type of person I would consider an "environmentalist." Like most Americans, I've also never been overly preoccupied with energy conservation or global warming. I'm somewhat embarrassed to admit those always seemed to be topics that "others" would handle or resolve. 

The spike in energy costs (specifically gas prices) over the past couple years, however, coupled with our recent downward trend in the economy, has caused us to rethink many aspects of our daily routines. In addition to altering some of my habits, I recently tried to expand my knowledge of global climate and energy-political issues by reading (which, by the way, is never a bad thing) Thomas Friedman's "Hot, Flat, and Crowded." 

In his book, Mr. Friedman explains the issues that threaten to make our earth dangerously unstable and he challenges the United States to be the global leader in the "green revolution." 

Right about now, you might be thinking, "I'm just one person; how can I make a difference?" Noted children's rights activist Marian Wright Edelman is quoted as saying, "We must not, in trying to think about how we can make a big difference, ignore the small daily differences we can make which, over time, add up to big differences that we often cannot foresee." 

How often do you walk into a bathroom or vacant conference room on base, only to find the room magnificently lit for no one to enjoy? If you live in base housing, do you find yourself less likely to conserve energy in the home just because you don't directly pay the bill? If you own a home off-base, is your house equipped with a programmable thermostat, or energy-efficient appliances and light fixtures? Are you doing what you can to reduce consumer waste and recycle as often as possible? When you go play golf, do you consider the benefits of walking (beyond the obvious health aspects) instead of renting a cart? These are all examples of small things we can consider in our daily lives that, when combined across a large population, can result in significant savings to natural resources and reductions in energy consumption. 

Mr. Friedman also makes compelling arguments regarding how our energy consumption and dependence on foreign oil are indirectly financing many of the enemies we're facing in the global war on terrorism. He quotes Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as saying "...the politics of energy... has given extraordinary power to some states that are using that power in not very good ways for the international system, states that would otherwise have very little power." 

As oil prices soared this past summer, the prospect of correlating my fuel consumption with providing terrorists the means to further their objectives gave me a new mindset on energy savings --beyond the obvious pain to my pocketbook. This revelation brings to light how even those who don't deploy in direct support of the global war on terror can take steps at home to diminish the capabilities of organizations determined to do us harm. Now that the market price of oil has come down dramatically, we have an opportunity through continued frugality to make an even more significant impact on the oil-rich nations' bottom line. 

We must all resist the temptation (brought on by temporarily low gas prices) to reverse our trends towards conservation and fuel-efficient attitudes. We each have an opportunity to become leaders for a better tomorrow. Start by asking yourself what kind of future do you want to create for your children, or their children. 

Follow that up with educating yourself on the political and scientific issues facing our nation and our planet. Then, don't think it's "not cool" to have a discussion about the environment with your friends. You'll find you become respected for your concern and knowledge. And finally, turn off the light, carpool with your friend and go play golf ... walking, of course.