Archived Opinion

The greening of America

“I suddenly think about my friends, you know, getting on their private jets. And I think, well, you know, maybe they have the right idea. Maybe all that we have to do is mouth a few platitudes, show a good, expression of concern on our faces, buy a Prius, drive it around for a while and give it to the maid, attend a few fundraisers and you’re done. Because, actually, all anybody really wants to do is talk about it.”

— Author Michael Crichton in 2007

That was Michael Crichton — the author of such books as Jurassic Park and, more to the point, State of Fear — speaking last year to scientists debating the reality of global warming and whether human activity is the culprit. For those who don’t know, Crichton has become the naysayers’ Al Gore, the person called to speak when a celebrity draw is needed at conventions and gatherings attended by those who say melting polar ice caps are just nature’s way.

While there is a sizeable minority who still argue that climate change is not a crisis and that we don’t need to alter the way we live, in reality the debate is becoming — in some important ways — increasingly irrelevant. That’s because the environmental lifestyle that began as a grassroots, activist-inspired movement has become mainstream, and it’s not taking a crisis to get people to live smarter. Perhaps, as Crichton argues, rising temperatures are the result of cyclical millennium-length variations in weather patterns.

Regardless, one fact we do know is that more and more people believe it is virtuous to reduce waste and their impact on the Earth. Just look around and there is plenty of evidence that the American infatuation with waste is on the decline. In our cover story last week, “How Great is Your Impact,” we found lots of people and organizations reducing the pollution and waste they produce simply because it is the right way to live.

Darcia and Mark Bondurant built a green house in Beaverdam in Haywood County, and Mark is the owner of Rare Earth Builders, which specializes in building environmentally sensitive homes. They work hard to pass their values on to their children. Rob Moody is a former environmental science teacher who now is co-owner of EcoBuilders, another contracting company that adheres to environmentally sensitive practices. Lauren Bishop has the job title of energy manager at Western Carolina University. She works to encourage faculty, staff and students to reduce their energy use.

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The point here is that people and organizations intrinsically know that it is good to be environmentally sensitive. The majority of the 32,000 U.S. citizens surveyed in a January 2008 Zogby poll say local efforts to be environmentally sensitive “will pay off for their communities by attracting new businesses and development, creating ‘green collar jobs,’ and boosting the local economy.” Here are some of the survey results:

• 68 percent said that in their personal lives they have already adopted water conservation measures, good news considering the recent drought and the increasing value of clean water.

• 53 percent said they would be willing to use mass transit if it were easily accessible from their homes and where they work.

• 65 percent said the rising price of gasoline makes them more likely to consider using mass transit.

• 44 percent said they would be willing to pay higher taxes if they knew all the added taxes were being spent on improving or creating public transportation where they live.

Another poll of 1,000 born-again evangelical Protestant Christians by the National Association of Evangelicals reveals a high level of concern over the environment. Seventy-five percent support environmental causes generally, 54 percent believe their faith encourages them to support environmental protection, and 70 percent believe that climate change will pose a serious threat to their children and subsequent generations.

This philosophy is becoming mainstream and will very soon cross all party and ideological lines and become a simple fact of life. The reasons are obvious.

“It’s just the right thing to do,” said Beaverdam resident Darcia Bondurant.

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