LETTER TO THE EDITOR.

 
FREE EXCERPT

I AM ASHAMED OF THE USA

I would like to comment on the editorial, 'Mother nature's warning', by Anver Versi in the January 1998 issue of African Business.

Taking the leadership role and tackling the world's problem of global warming seems to be a natural for the United States. The US tries to assume the position of the world's conscience and constantly harasses foreign countries about their human rights record (e.g. China and Iraq). Besides being the right thing to do for moral reasons, the US is probably best positioned to take advantage of entirely new renewable energy industries that will develop. When it comes to technological leadership and innovation, the US is the world's leader and will greatly benefit from any developments that are based on these factors.

This is part of the reason why I am ashamed. Instead of embracing the lead and setting an example for the world to copy, the US is doing the exact opposite and being the example of precisely what NOT to do. Being the fourth most populous country and containing 5% of the world's population, it spits out approximately 25% of the world's toxic gases responsible for global warming and rather than trying to clean up its act, it's fighting to maintain its right to choke the world and conniving to buy the right to increase its toxic share.

As much as I want to blame this on the Reagan/Bush era, it surprisingly is happening while my man Bill Clinton is in the White House. And he's not even fighting for re-election but is expected to be followed by the environmentalist Al Gore on the White House campaign trail. This makes such little sense that I feel nervous to call a sharp reversal of this country's position a "no-brainer" but where else can we go?

We must attribute our current, morally weak, short range position to the incredible power of the oil, coal and automobile industries. The US built its position of world economic leadership by planning society to depend on the automobile. Unlike most European and Asian countries that do not have tremendous oil reserves and/or gigantic automobile manufacturers, mass transportation in the US has either fallen into the category of transport for the "low class" (Greyhound buses) or exclusivity (1st class airplane travel). Mass transportation simply does not exist for the masses.

However, (1) this must change or (2) a new, non-polluting transportation industry must develop.

The automobile industry has striking...

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