In 1961 John F. Kennedy's inaugural address included the phrase "Ask not what your country can do for you, Ask what you can do for your country." This was a call to arms for all Americans to face the challenges of the times. I would like to adapt that famous quote to something more like "Ask not what your earth can do for you, but what you can do for your earth. It is well established that if everyone on earth adopted the standard of living of most Americans, it would require the resources of multiple planets.
If we are truly one of the most advanced nations on the planet, it is time to lead by example once more and adopt the austerity measures that are vital to creating a sustainable future. It it time to cast aside the luxuries we selfishly cling to as they rapidly become a noose tightening around the collective neck of life on our planet. So far we have adopted two main responses, "If they are not going to do it, why should we?" and "When a better solution comes along, we will adopt it."
The first view is as backwards as it is selfish. American exceptionalism was one of the founding principals that lead us from a remote colony in a strange land, to the world super power we are today. It is one of the driving forces behind much of the progress our nation stands on. We adopted a role as one of the strongest influences world wide, it is time to grow up and take responsibility for all that we have insisted is apart of our purview. This means adopting genuine austerity now, not only for the sake of the environment but for our very nations security in the future.
The second view is no longer an option. We have run out of time. It is well documented that we are entering a global mass extinction event. Loss of bio-diversity is no longer just the problem of spotted owls in timber forests, but nearly every ecosystem on the planet. We as a nation have squabbled over implementation long enough that the window of opportunity has closed. It is no longer about how to maintain our economy and standard of living in a sustainable fashion, but about how can we scramble to maintain the ecosystems that we depend on for our very survival.
The biological sciences have unearthed a body of evidence that unambiguously proves the interconnected nature of all life on earth. Not a single scrap of food or breath of air comes to us with out the aid of multiple organisms acting together for our mutual benefit. We have taken for granted that these services are eternal and immutable, but as we accrue more and more debt to a system that is not rebounding rapidly enough to balance out our greed and avarice, it has become painfully obvious that this is simply not the case.
Extraordinary challenges require extraordinary measures.