Climate change is real and it is happening right now. Maybe the changes are not happening in an obviously wild or visual way, but it cannot be denied that climate change is occurring and we as a nation are doing little to stop it. For ‘greenies’ like myself and many other Swatties, it can be frustrating to watch our president, the leader of arguably the most powerful country in the world, spread lies about how the climate is stable. Hearing commentary from President Trump on climate change can make you feel powerless and perhaps even hopeless at times, but in my heart of hearts, I truly believe we as a nation can make a real change in the coming years. In order to make those changes, however, we will have to agree to give up some of our cultural attachments, however painful or unfair that may seem. Instead, we should be focusing on the ideals American culture is built on and find ourselves again as world leaders. We should remember our forward thinking and innovative minds and take on this new challenge like we have taken on challenges before, rather than cowering in the face of change. We have to transform our American culture as we have done in the past, in order to save this planet.
In speaking to a friend of mine from Wyoming, I was introduced to the idea that there are many ‘culturally’ American things that people worldwide resist having in their lives in order to save the planet. One such action that is aggressively American is driving a truck. People I have met in my study-abroad programs have lauded American cars, especially trucks, for their size and sheer power. This praise has always been quickly followed by a comment about the damage they cause to the environment and another comment about how Americans love wasting gas. Although I was initially taken aback by this intense resistance to not using trucks, as my family only has two very small cars, when I really thought about it, I found myself agreeing. Americans do love their large cars and it does seem to have some backing. As my friend explained, those same people who love Wyoming’s land, mountains, and lakes also refuse to give up their ga- guzzling trucks. They argue it is a freedom they have a right to and imposing fuel efficiency standards would be unconstitutional. Such people use the Constitution to argue that their rights as free citizens would be impinged upon if their car selection was reduced.
This is where we have to become harsh — we have to decide, once and for all, that our climate and this planet is more important than superficial cultural attachments. A truck emits a large amount of CO2, much more than a small four-door vehicle could. Making the transition from trucks to regular passenger cars may seem insignificant, but could have the potential of significantly decreasing our CO2 emissions.
Perhaps it may seem harsh to say that preserving certain aspects of our current American culture is not as important as our climate. It may seem harsh to argue that we need to cut off access to certain portions of American cultural staples in order to stop climate change. It may seem even more harsh when you factor in that a significant portion of our country does not even believe climate change is a real thing. Nevertheless, change has to come, either now with small sacrifices or down the road with massive ones.
I do not just want to target truck owners. Despite not owning a truck I am a huge benefactor of American culture and have used it to harm the planet as well. Fast fashion, a trend in which clothes are made with cheap fabrics and sold at very low prices, is not only affordable but also readily available and very enticing. As a college student, my pockets are not quite full, but I do love shopping, and these two opposing facts have always presented a challenge to me. Therefore, even though I know the dangers and harm fast fashion creates, I have often bought into it. People from abroad will often comment on consumerist American vices, citing the idea that Americans have to own everything or that they are some of the best consumers in the world. These foreigners are not wrong — we in America live in a consumer society. We have come to expect everything to come into our pockets as long as we work hard enough. It has created a system in which we have too many things that we do not need, and the strain that cheap production has placed on our resources is high. So even though fast fashion may be a staple of American culture, we have to give up this along with other forms of intense consumerism.
Initially, such limitations and changes to our daily life may feel like harsh limitations of our culture; however, there’s another, less talked about side to American culture and that is a culture of progressiveness and forward thinking. America is the country that has had a multitude of ‘firsts’, leading the world into the twenty-first century with amazing innovations such as the iPhone and Google. America has been regarded as a leader for so many years, and to see it regress in recent years has been a heartbreaking reality.
Consumerism will not be done away with easily. It is an easy crutch to fall back on and has been facilitated in the U.S. by most major brands; however,the entire system relies on us, its consumers. In order to stop the cycle, we must be the ones who step up and say no more. We must actively choose to disengage from the culture and instead make smart decisions for planet Earth. We have to remember the decision we make not only affect us, but the rest of the world and future generations, as well.
If we really want to ‘Make America Great Again’, we should start by analyzing our flaws and the ways we have harmed this planet and its people. We must look at our mistakes and the way they have become ingrained in our culture and change it. Because, at the end of the day, we cannot put superficial cultural trends over the world