Just as President John F. Kennedy inspired America to race to the moon, the need to go green is a call to action that shares similarities. Both are challenges for America to step up to the plate in the area of scientific progress. Just as the Soviet Union challenged U.S. technological power with the launch of Sputnik in 1957, nations around the world today are advancing in the environmental sciences like never before. If America is to remain economically and socially strong in this era of globalization, we must join in this cause or risk losing the prestige that we have so long enjoyed.
By Tim Takechi
There is a revolution coming. Can you feel it? It has been all over the news. Governments around the world are talking about it; many are even in the stages of planning it. Here in the United States of America, a nation founded upon the values of innovation and freedom, this revolution may find its birthplace.
I am not referring to a political or religious revolution. The upcoming societal upheaval being discussed here has more to do with technology and economics than it does with political theory, idealism, or culture. We are on the brink of an environmental reformation that will lead us through this new century and beyond.
Politicians and business people are already talking about the need for humanity everywhere to go “green.” Visible pop culture phenomena such as Al Gore’s 2006 documentary An Inconvenient Truth has put environmental causes on the forefront of domestic and foreign politics. In an age where globalization has become the new configuration of international relations, reducing global warming and creating alternative energy sources will be a task given to not a few, but to many.
In a now legendary speech delivered before Congress on May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy promised that an American will be sent to the moon before the end of the decade. Kennedy’s bold call to action had political ramifications. Following the Soviet Union’s launch of Sputnik into orbit on October 4, 1957, the Cold War had found an unlikely proxy battlefield: outer space.
Americans feared Sputnik’s launch signified the Soviets had surpassed America in terms of scientific and technological progress. How were we to win the Cold War if Communism, a supposedly backwards political ideology, did what a free market capitalistic society could not?
This explains why President Kennedy saw it necessary to challenge Americans to not only think outside the box, but to think outside this planet as well. As it turns out, America did send one of its own to the moon. Apollo 11 proudly touched down on the moon on July 20, 1969, a day when nearly every human being around the world was glued to their television sets.
Sadly, Kennedy could not live to see his promised be fulfilled. But thankfully everyone else was there to witness a moment when a U.S. president could inspire a nation to see scientific innovation as foundational to social, political and cultural progress.
Which returns us to our aforementioned “green revolution;” a new era of scientific advancement in the environmental sciences. Fortunately for all of us, this revolution has already started; yet it still has a plenty way to go. Not all the promises made in the 1997 Kyoto Protocol have been fulfilled yet. The upcoming United Nations climate change conference in Copenhagen may or may not yield significant gains in combating global warming. We will just have to wait and see.
But what we do not have to wait and see is that environmentalism is a real issue that has been thrust into the mainstream after years of being compartmentalized as just another political issue. Concerns regarding global warming, the need for alternative energy and the imminent dangers of pollution are at the forefront of news headlines across the country.
It will be intriguing to see how the Obama administration will tackle this issue on top of everything else it has to face. Reforming healthcare, improving the staggering economy and dealing with foreign wars in the Middle East seem to be higher on the administration’s priority list. But these other important issues will not make the need for America to go green magically disappear.
One way to rally everyday Americans behind environmental reform is to do what Kennedy did regarding the Space Race 48 years ago. If Americans can get as excited about transforming America into a green economy as they did about beating the Soviets to the moon, then the impending Green Revolution may get on track. But there are, of course, challenges toward mustering this sort of rallying cry.
As important as it is, “going green” isn’t nearly as flashy, dramatic, or sexy as flying to the moon. Outer space has an aura of mystery and adventure that environmentalism lacks. Sending an American to the moon symbolizes everything that is right about our country. It demonstrates that with enough smarts and determination, we can do anything. We need to improve our green track record because our corporations, government and citizens have made bad choices.
However, there is reason to hope. Though the momentum that carried through President Obama’s 2008 election may have dissipated since then, if a meaningful healthcare bill is passed soon that could work in the administration’s favor to focus on other important domestic policies. Environmentalism, of course, would be included in that category.
Just like the Democrats framed the healthcare debate in terms of a “moral obligation” to insure the uninsured, the president should frame “going green” as a challenge that will eventually make America a stronger and better nation. As Kennedy said in his famous speech:
“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”
And this is how we can get people fired up over going green. Make it not a burden, nor a blame game, nor a politicized guilt trip, but a challenge. A challenge to make us a better people; a challenge that will return our country to the position of being the global leaders of scientific progress. This is how we can make this revolution spring to life. All we need is a call to action.
Can you feel the revolution coming? I sure can.
© 2009, TimTakechi. All rights reserved. Do not republish.