Skip to main content

Using Robert Kohls' American Values to Start a Green Revolution

Cynthia is a digital marketer, writer, and artist. She writes about a variety of topics, especially digital marketing, languages & culture.

Will we band together to form the Green Revolution?

Will we band together to form the Green Revolution?

What Are Robert Kohls' American Values?

In 1984, Robert Kohls of the Washington International Center published an article entitled "The Values Americans Live By." It was aimed at helping foreign visitors to the US understand and assimilate into American culture more effectively. His research led him to list thirteen core values that Americans hold true. Interestingly enough, when you ask someone from the US to define our most important cultural values, you might get something like, "We work hard," or "We strive to be great." Beyond that, however, the difference in responses could be as individual as all the different people you ask.

But, to an outsider, we generally have these core values in common:

  1. We take or want to take personal control over the environment.
  2. We embrace change.
  3. We are always aware of time.
  4. We highly value equality and egalitarianism.
  5. We prize our individualism and privacy.
  6. We have a pronounced self-help concept.
  7. We value competition and free enterprise.
  8. We look to the future and find ways to improve it.
  9. We like to take action and love to work hard.
  10. We don't like to be too formal.
  11. We communicate often by being direct, open and utterly honest.
  12. We utilize our talents of practicality and efficiency.
  13. We like our things; we work hard for the things we have.

How We Can Use These Values as Part of a Green Revolution

In relating these values, I think that we, as a country, can capitalize on these ideals to propel us to be leaders in the Green Revolution. In this article, I'll talk about the first six values as they relate to helping the US to become a greener country. In Part II, I'll talk about the rest of the thirteen values and their role in our Green Revolution. Of course, when I use the word "green" I am referring to a more eco-friendly way of doing things.

What is the Green Revolution? It is a way of life that gets away from dependence on oil, looks to boost jobs in the green industry, and helps everyday people to save money while lessening their impact on the planet. It is not a political statement or a call to abandon any sort of social norms. It is acknowledging that the earth's resources are finite and our great country can help to serve as a model to the world. We can relay to everyone that it is possible to coexist with a greener planet while thriving economically.

1. Controlling the Environment

We Americans naturally think that we can control our environment, both literally and figuratively. If we want a house built, then we will move the rocks and take out the trees necessary to do so.

Likewise, if we want to pursue a lucrative career in business, we just need to put our minds to it, get through the necessary schooling, and get out there and grab that job. In effect, we have controlled our personal environment.

It is this desire to control our outcome that we can harness in the Green Revolution. Because the world's resources are finite, we can use our capacity to take charge and innovate. We can create novel gadgets and gizmos to help control things like pollution and having too many bad chemicals in the environment.

Of course, we as a country have started to do this. More and more people are realizing the importance of reducing our carbon footprint. People are already buying cars that are more gas-efficient and they are - little by little - installing solar panels on their homes. But, we can put our minds together as a whole to create entire industries based on the need to be more green.

Energy saving eco-houses.

Energy saving eco-houses.

There is a difference between saying that change is hard to achieve and saying that the average person will never do anything. One is a challenge, and the other is cause for despair.

— --Unknown

2. Embracing Change

We are a country that was founded on "change". For many of us, our ancestors wanted religious freedom or autonomy from the British Crown. They came to an unknown land and began a whole new way of life.

As such, it's ingrained in this American culture that change is synonymous with progress and economic growth.

Certainly we all are going through change in the current Great Recession. Many people have lost jobs and homes, and the rest of us are holding on to cash and tightening our belts and waiting until the storm is over.

Scroll to Continue

Read More From Soapboxie

To be sure, with our proclivity to change, what's just a little bit more? What if we challenged ourselves to a Green Revolution?

Recall the phrase Gandhi once posed: "Be the change you wish to see in the world."

A Green Revolution could use green technology to help leave the planet in better shape than when the 21st century started. Instead of seeing those relentlessly depressing headlines about the oil crisis, or another animal on the brink of extinction, we could see things like, "The US is Curbing Greenhouse Emissions" or "US Reforestation Efforts Are Increasing on a Monumental Scale." How amazing! Our children and grandchildren will have a chance to breathe cleaner air and learn to be responsible, eco-friendly citizens.

Changing over to gas-efficient vehicles could put a huge dent in our dependence on oil. That could be another great headline: "Because US vehicles get 60-70 mpg on average, Worldwide Oil Supplies Remain Stable." It is true that if we increase our gas efficiency, we will help to save some of the oil that is going to get ever-more precious in the next couple of decades.

Electric cars aside, there are lots of vehicles that get this sort of gas mileage, but they're not legal in the US. They're diesel vehicles that don't meet emissions standards because they use diesel fuel. It's not that diesel is "dirtier" than gasoline engines, per se, but that our emissions standards require companies to do extensive overhauls to be compliant to our rules - costing lots of money. But, there's another area to elicit positive change - a change in laws that govern diesel requirements. Or, we can continue researching and improving electric cars.

Still, since we have an extensive network of pavement, we could come up with more efficient bus and mass transit systems. We have Greyhound and city transit systems in place already. However, we could capitalize on that. Imagine luxurious buses to travel the country in, complete with a little café, and cushy, roomy seats. Our railway system needs extensive upgrades to be more passenger-friendly, but think about how we can transport ever-more cargo that way, instead of using so many tractor-trailers that are quite dangerous and use barrels of diesel fuel.

We Americans are quite aware of the time.

We Americans are quite aware of the time.

3. Our Concept of Time

We Americans are known to check the time on a watch, phone or computer on a regular basis. We are quite preoccupied with time. Think about this: when was the last time you were five minutes late for a 3 o'clock meeting? Really, if you're "on-time," you get there before 3, at about 2:55. In many other countries, time doesn't work this way.

There's something called "Latin Time." In Spain, if you show up for a get-together that starts at 7, you're about half an hour early if you actually show up at 7. In some cases, you might even be an hour early! Your hostess probably won't even be ready yet!

But think about this. It is precisely our awareness of time that allows us to not dawdle and get things accomplished within a specified amount of time. In our culture, we have taboos about wasting time and not being productive.

What if we harnessed this idea so that we place a time-constraint upon ourselves to formulate our Green Revolution? That way, we could collectively set a goal. Here's an example: by the year 2015, we will show the world that we are innovative leaders with multiple emerging green industries aimed at long term growth and sustainability.

Think back to when the Russians launched Sputnik in 1957, and in the space hysteria, the US formed NASA and launched its own satellites into space just a few years later. We were stunned that another country had "beat us" in something, so we scrambled to create rival programs that would be the envy of the rest of humanity.

Other countries are "beating" us right now! It's incredible that other cultures are embracing green technology. Now, we need to do the same - for our own health and posterity. Is it little wonder that with all of our chemically processed foods that things like diabetes and heart disease are on the rise? Talk to someone who tries to eat raw foods or organic foods or even food with readable ingredients only. You can almost bet their health is at least a little bit better.

In the same vein, we need to create a kind of pressure on ourselves to be better than even we know how to be and launch our Green Revolution with a passion and urgency as if our lives depended on it - because I actually think they do. Perhaps not in the short-term, but our long-term prospects warrant analysis.

With more competition for finite resources, a striking rise of middle-class citizens around the world, and a dependence on non-renewable energy, we must be thinking ahead of the game so that we all will have access to renewable resources. We will also be able to stay abreast of emerging technologies that will propel this country into the 21st century.

"I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestioned ability of a man to elevate his life by conscious endeavor." --Henry David Thoreau

4. Our Idea of Egalitarianism

What about egalitarianism will help and guide us in our Green Revolution? Well, first off, our country prides itself on the fact that whether you are royalty or a homeless man looking for a second chance, we fundamentally believe that all people start out on equal footing. We all have the ability to climb the proverbial ladder, whether we have a wealthy background or one rooted in poverty.

This concept can help us all to get on board with the idea of being green and help to educate others. We can show our fellow brethren how they can save money and help the planet at the same time. Even the most jaded among us can benefit from a greener approach. Though there is plenty of controversy surrounding global warming to last us our entire lives, a gold-mine of opportunity exists. Just imagine traditional gas stations converted into electrical plug-in stations. These inherently create jobs, too. You need electricians to install wiring, you need metal companies to supply the metal, construction workers to retrofit the buildings, workers for the burgeoning electric car industry. Anyone who would want to study to secure one of these jobs could and that's the part about egalitarianism that is most remarkable.

5. Individualism

We value our individualism and our ideas. We value it so much that we don't think about it. We don't think about how, really, we're part of one, big, homogeneous group of individual-minded citizens. But, because of this spirit of individuality, this could play a key role in our Green Revolution. This country is full of innovators, entrepreneurs, and people who could fill every possible "green-niche" that I or anyone else could dream up. We need the writers for their conveyance of green ideas, teachers to teach green concepts, the recyclers to keep our things out of landfills, green materials to use in construction (do you like bamboo?), green air-fresheners - the sky's the limit. Perhaps I should say the green earth is the limit? In any case, the US is gaining ground with these types of companies. However, as a country, we need all of our bright minds to embrace these ideas en masse to become a powerhouse for the Green Revolution.

6. The Self-Help Concept

In the US, it doesn't matter if you're rich or poor, we all like the idea that with whatever proverbial social ladder is imposed on us, we can climb as high as we like. What better example do we have than our current president, who rose from relative obscurity to become the first black leader of the free world? We are a nation of self-starters.

If we take this idea and run with it, that self-concept principle will propel us forward into the Green Revolution. Many of us could theoretically improve our lives for the better. We can use self-sacrifice to start a small business in the basement with a little bit of self-confidence to boot. We have the power to negate self-doubt and become a self-made person and ride the wave of the Green Revolution. We are a huge group of self-respecting folks. We could garner our image of "self" and project it on to creating a green-based economy.

For more reading, on the same topic, take a look at The Green Revolution, Using Robert Kohls' Values, part II.

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

Related Articles