Going with this theme of self-evaluation, I have also decided to reconsider my piece on “Leading the World to Hell.”  Yes, I am a little bitter, but there’s no sense in proselytizing a message of unity or tolerance with a sermon soaked in damnation.  Besides, my image could really benefit some authentic placement of warm fuzzies.  (:  I know at first glance I may appear schizophrenic, but bear with me as I experiment with metamorphosis. 

The USA is the leader of the free world.  We are truly a brilliant beacon of light, guiding the world out of darkness into a period of infinite prosperity.  Despite a total population of only 5 percent of the planet, we manage to produce more wealth than any other nation and provide billions of dollars of global aid.  But building and maintaining the world’s most successful economy does not come without a cost to our environment.  It is now well-known that the US leads the planet as the top emitter of greenhouse gases, producing 25 percent of the world’s pollution and two-thirds of the world’s toxic wastes.  Yet despite undeniable evidence that our American lifestyle is contributing to global climate change at an alarming rate, we continue a consumption culture that is literally devouring the world as we know it.  

At the United Nations conference this month in Bali, Indonesia, 190 countries (out of 194 that exist) confronted the US for our position as the only industrialized nation to refuse ratification of the Kyoto Protocol climate pact.  As part of their criticism, world leaders questioned the US rejection of mandatory emissions regulations.But our representatives were quick to defend our greedy and gluttonous ways, touting a recent 1.5 percent decline in carbon dioxide emissions and insisting that voluntary emission cuts will be sufficient to produce the necessary changes.  Nevermind that our own Department of Energy credits this reduction to favorable weather patterns and higher energy prices.

It is time for America to live up to our reputation as the hope of the world.   As the most powerful country on the planet, we have the responsibility to provide an ethical example of balance and self-restraint . We must recultivate the values of frugality and thrift that shaped our humble beginnings and we must serve as the quintessential model of sustainable consumption.  Remember, we make up only 5 percent of the world’s population, but consume 25 percent of the world’s oil, one-third of the world’s paper and cars, and 27 percent of the world’s aluminum.  The environmental impact of one American is 12 times greater than that of one person from India and 250 time greater than that of someone from Sub-Saharan Africa, even with recycling. Despite a growing “green” movement in this country, Americans still consume 2 million plastic bottles, 1 million aluminum cans and 60,000 plastic shopping bags every 5 MINUTES. 

Yet, we remain a country of tremendous strength and ingenuity, overcoming great challenges through perserverance and grounded in our commitment to fairness and righteousness.  We are capable of anything when we unite for a common cause.  So as we stand here on the precipice of a global environmental/energy crisis, Americans must decide which direction to lead the world. 

Are we the naïve Captain of the infamous Titanic or are we a lighthouse in a perilous fog?