Ask any foreigner first setting foot in this country, and they will tell you. America is a land of extremes:
Big Macs. Survivor Reality Show. Hummers. Crash diets. Ultra thin McAir. DD breast implants. 140 characters of less tweets on Twitter. Hypermiling. McMansions. Extreme thinness. Gross obesity. Venti cups at Starbucks. Fast food. Kleenexes. Supermarkets, open 24/7. Speed dating. Ultra junky Twinkies. Organic mania. Cosmo covers. Jumbo TV screens. AP classes in high school. SUVs. Facebook profiles with five thousand friends. Double kitchens. Master bedrooms. Ten pound bags of spinach at Costco. Annual checkups for pets. Super size bath towels. Extreme waste. Varsity sports training. Bravo TV competitions. Power yoga. Huge fridges. Overflowing closets. Shooting for the moon, and then Mars. Eternal youth with Botox. One tank vacation. Mega churches. No Impact Man. . .
We, the American people do not know moderation. We always want more.
Could it be, then, that the timid approach to climate change, is missing the boat? By treating us like addicts, who can only get better one baby green step at a time, deciders and influencers, are failing to recognize what will most likely move us. A challenge at the measure of our appetites. I am reminded of a talk Robert Redford gave on Earth Day, in which he described America as a nation that responds best to challenges, not fears. Al Gore was right, when he suggested that changing light bulbs was no longer enough. His rationale, though was grounded in carbon maths, not citizen psychology.
The environmental discourse is permeated with words, that are too reductive to mobilize most citizens. Take for instance, energy conservation, or 'reduce-reuse-recycle', two of the main pillars of a greener world. And notice their shrinking quality. My head may understand. My conscience may even kick in, and beg me to please be good, and do this for my grandchildren. But really, when it comes down to it, how much do I really want to abide? Green drops like these only make sense to me, if connected to a greater adventure. Right now, it's pretty lonely when I choose to not put the clothes in the dryer, and hang them on our indoor line instead. I need help making the mental shift from "a little less every time, every day" to something else, that feels more positively challenging.
Our political leadership has not been helping much either. The Bush administration has been ignoring the problem. Al Gore, who had the right idea with his last moon shot challenge discourse, falls short on execution. And Obama and McCain are not yet in a position to deliver.
T. Boone Pickens is the first to present us with a real plan, big enough to capture our imagination. You may not entirely agree with his plan or his political views, but there is no denying the power of his can do attitude, with the follow up to prove it. I went back and listened to Pickens" introductory video once more. No small steps here. It doesn't hurt either that Mr. Pickens is a legendary figure of American business. Finally, the climate solution has a face, that's bigger than life, and that Americans can relate to. A man who, not unlike Obama, has started a movement, with enough momentum to sustain itself. And a narrative that appeals to Americans' patriotism, with its focus on 'energy independence'. Simple words, big goals, actions already in place. And the confidence that this will get done, that it has already started.
Will the next T. Boone Pickens, please step forward? We need more men and women like him.
In the mean time, bloggers like myself should change their tune, and start pushing for bolder solutions. No more tiptoeing. Instead, let us consistently reframe the climate problem as the energy challenge of this century. The new frontier to be conquered.