Cynthia is a digital marketer, writer, and artist. She writes about a variety of topics, especially digital marketing, languages & culture.
Robert Kohls' American Values (And How We Can Use Them to Start a Green Revolution)
In Part I, I talked about the first six values Americans live by and how we can use our ideals to propel us into a Green Revolution. This article deals with the next seven values and ideas to help us exist on a more sustainable planet in the face of diminishing resources—and an ever-increasing population of 7 billion people that need everything from food and shelter to electricity and running water.
The values we live by were coined by Robert Kohls in a 1984 article. He relayed thirteen values that would allow an outsider to understand why Americans do the things they do. For a list of these values, click to Part I. I will continue to use his guidelines to discuss how we can become a greener America based on our values.
We Value Competition and Free Enterprise
In this seventh value, we strive to be competitive. We encourage it at home, in the classroom, and in the workplace. Many societies around the world actually do the opposite: they foster cooperation. It's not good or bad, it just is.
However, competition is also the backbone of our economic system. It's called free enterprise. Think about it. You always hear about competitive pricing, business competition, and how companies are always competing for customers.
Creating a Green Revolution can play right into this concept. We want to be the best, right? One of the ways to do that is to create businesses that are based on eco-friendly practices that also can compete with other countries. Right now, China can make solar panels cheaper than the US can. Granted, that country can get away with paying its workers substandard wages - a practice that needs to be stopped the world over. But think about this: as oil prices go up (and they will keep going up) it's going to cost a lot of money to ship those panels to the US mainland. Why not drum up competition now, get solar panel companies to write grants and petition for subsidies to help make US products cheaper in the meantime? That way, as oil prices go up, and people look more and more to alternative energy, we'll be ready to meet demand. We'll effectively have an edge on the competition.
We often talk about what our children and grand-children are going to have to contend with, once they assume the responsibilities of the country. We used to just assume that with the idea of upward mobility, people would be better off than the generation before. This is one place I don't agree with Mr. Kohls: I don't think we've been thinking of the future that much, considering our use of non-renewable resources. It's looking rather bleak if we continue with the status quo. We keep using ever-more oil and we're blasting off mountaintops. I want my children to grow up in a world where they don't have to worry about an energy crisis and are able to see beautiful, pristine mountains that have been left undisturbed. If we work toward a better future that is sustainable, our children - right now - will grow up in a world that won't be destroyed for short-term gain.
It's staggering to think about how many products right now are based on petroleum and oil dependency. Cars and heating-oil are obvious, but clothes (especially in the form of polyester), food, all electronics and even electricity itself wouldn't be possible without the use of petroleum. Still, many fertilizers and pharmaceuticals are petroleum-dependent. We need that oil in the future, but if we harvest it to the point where we can't find it anywhere cheaply...well, you can imagine what that will do to an oil-based economy.
The time to secure our future is now, before supplies run low and we're lost, just trying to figure out in what direction we need to go next.
Action and Work Orientation
We are not a culture that likes to "dawdle." Even when we're relaxing, we're often doing something else. Knitting while watching TV? Sure. Talking on the phone while cooking? You bet. Our work ethic is such that compared to many other industrialized nations, we have the least amount of vacation time: 2 weeks per year, generally. Many countries, especially those in Europe, allow their citizens up to 6 weeks of paid vacation time!
Yes, well, we are a nation of workaholics. We actually start to identify ourselves by our profession because we work so much. "Hi, I'm Cyndi. I'm a teacher and an author. And you?" We identify our professions before we ever start to talk about family and children.
How can we use this 'workaholism' to our advantage? Since we strive to work harder and better, we can do that easily in the Green Revolution. We can strive to learn all we can - the pros AND the cons of green education, technology, living and approaches. As such, we begin to think outside of the box and use our professions themselves as a way to perpetuate sustainable causes.
Are you a make-up artist? Why not use chemical-free, eco-friendly products? Your clients' skin will thank you. Not only are you moving away from questionable chemicals, you're helping the rest of the country - in your own way - to move away from oil dependence and helping companies market their sustainable products.
Do you buy groceries? You may have noticed in the past few years that organic food now sits by regular food in the aisle. It's still a little more expensive, but it's often quite competitive with the non-organic choices. Even better, if you're shopping at your local farmer's market, you're supporting the local economy, and moving away from oil dependence. You're not moving freight hundreds or thousands of miles to get a tomato. Plus, the food is more fresh, giving you flavor that is simply unrivaled.
Our Penchant for Informality
Whether we're talking to the president of a company, the principal at a school, or the hostess at the neighborhood pizza place, we're likely to use the same speech and greetings: "Hi, how are you?"
In the same vein, people in blue jeans and t-shirts at dinner parties isn't taboo.
How does our inclination for informality play into the Green Revolution? It means that we're comfortable in making associations with people from all walks of life. These associations can help us. We are pros at networking, especially now with online social-networking. It's easier than ever to get an idea, share it publicly, and gain support for it. So, why can't we take a stand and spread the idea of a Green Revolution? We can! Yes, we can!
We Are Direct and Open
From the political arena to the typical home, we value honesty, especially when it comes to bad news or otherwise constructive criticism. In many other societies, there are highly ritualized protocols for delivering negative information. We, however, expect people to be open, direct and honest in our communications with each other, even if we're not always comfortable with it. We don't like to hint around too much - just give us the facts.
So, in light of this value, I would like to be honest. I don't like the fact that we're not more "green" as a nation - at least where we stand now. I do like the fact that every day, more people are realizing that being eco-conscious is a smart way to live. But, I wish it were at a faster pace (yes, another value: NOW). I just worry about the state of affairs for my own progeny. I wonder what we will do if we run out of resources and a balanced planet to live on - and many signs point to the fact that the earth isn't balanced, she's sick. When we have Category 5 hurricanes forming in the gulf, I immediately think of my fellow countrymen and want to ensure their welfare, while at the same time, I want to see these horrific storms diminish in frequency and scale. I understand that I can't control or fix everything - nor will I try. But, in my own way, I can encourage others to use their values to help us to become leaders and to help our society embrace a way of living that doesn't make other countries rich, but in fact, allows our own citizens to keep some of their hard-earned cash and keeps us from being utterly dependent on tyrannical petro-dictators. Their values are not our own.
Practicality and Efficiency
We pride ourselves on being able to "get the job done." We look at the facts, develop a plan, and execute. Thus, we don't leave a lot of room for dreamy types, but look instead for systems that will pay the bills, make some money and drive the economy forward.
We are known the world over for this. We are a nation of inventors, innovators, and entrepreneurs.
It is in this spirit that I encourage us to embrace the Green Revolution. We need our inventors, innovators and entrepreneurs to fill all the green niches that will be part of it. We need innovative wind power and hydro-power. We need advanced solar technology to light our homes. We need more advanced gadgets to take the excess carbon dioxide and methane out of the atmosphere - or we need to embrace using cars less. We need practical solutions for humans that are out-consuming available resources. We need them now.
We Like Our Things
Okay, this is another value where I'm just going to have to use another American value and just be brutally honest. We can't have everything. There, I said it. If you look in the typical American home, you'll see late-model electronic items: plasma TVs, video games, blue ray players, coffee makers, microwaves, desktop computers, laptop computers, cell phones, electronic book-readers, hair dryers, curling irons, vacuum cleaners, cameras, video cameras, webcams, washers, dryers and the list goes on.
We like our things. We also like them new.
Just think if seven billion people did what we're doing: we've cut down our forests to make way for more people who want all these things who eat more food and need a car to drive so they can work at a job they need so they can use electricity so they can relax by the TV...do you see where I'm getting at?
It's not bad that we like our things. As I write this, I have my camera in hand, I just made a cup of tea with my electric tea-water heater and using a light - because it's getting dark outside. But these things are energy-intensive to produce.
Look at your cell phone. It's got metal components and other metal ores. Have you ever thought about where that stuff comes from? Our country, in pursuit of these precious materials, has gone to other countries to mine and destroy mountains to get at those metal ores. Someone else in some unnamed third-world country assembled said phone for pennies a day. Then, think of the plastic used to make that phone. That's oil - in a hardened state. Then there are heavy metals inside that don't do much while you're actually using the phone. Let's say you upgrade that phone. So do hundreds of thousands - even millions - of other people. They get rid of their other phones. Sure, some do the smart thing and return their old phones to be refurbished so that someone else doesn't have to get a new phone. Many do not. They simply throw them away. Where do they go? The landfill. In the landfill, they corrode and degrade, emitting those heavy metals that can leach into the environment. It can get into our groundwater. This is part of why fish have so much mercury - and why we have mercury in human breast milk! We eat these fish!
I'm not saying that we can't have our things or that we shouldn't consume anything. What I am saying is that part of embracing the Green Revolution is facing the truth that all our stuff is bad for the planet and we need to limit what we buy and consume. Remember, I said we're good at admitting the truth. The truth is, we need to be realistic - another value we hold near and dear. If we need something, we need to ask ourselves a few things. Going back to the cell-phone scenario, if I get the new iPhone tomorrow, do I really need it? Can I wait to get it until next year? Could I get a refurbished model? How am I going to responsibly dispose of my old phone? How do I know that this phone was actually created somewhere where other people were treated fairly and humanely?
Indeed, the US is a wonderful, beautiful country. But, we really need to initiate a Green Revolution for ourselves. We can't wait for our government - heck, our politicians are too busy bickering and having face-offs or otherwise being bribed with money in the form of lobbyists. We can't wait for our neighbor or our friends. We have to do this for ourselves. We have to do this for our children and grandchildren. We have to do this to allow the planet to breathe and not make species of plants and animals go extinct - to never exist again. We have to stop the transfer of wealth to countries who have sworn to be against us. By that I mean we have to curb our oil dependency. Our economy needs to shift from oil-based to sustainable-based if we are to compete with other countries in the future. If we act, we can create a better planet for ourselves right now and for the generations who will come after us.
Will you join me in a Green Revolution?
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2012 Cynthia Calhoun