Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Their Turn, Our Challenge 

I missed this story last week about the growth of air conditioner sales in Asia and the impact on the earth's ozone layer. What is striking about it is that Asia is getting creature comforts First World countries assume, and it is getting the attendant problems that go with the technology.

The temptation to preach about the environment to Asians is strong, but it is a temptation the First World should avoid. Rather, we should be happy the rest of the world is catching up. The communications challenge is to change First World habits, so developing countries can share in our wealth without damaging the environment more than humans have already. This will require immense changes in attitudes in First World countries, and it will be a PR challenge for decades to come. America, especially, is so used to consuming a disproportionate share of earth's resources that sharing will be difficult.

Almost certainly, as Americans reduce use of harmful technologies, Asians and others will take up the slack. There won't be much net reduction in harmful gases, but it is an opportunity for developed countries to lead the way globally. We should expect a great deal of PR work in future decades will be around environmental issues -- explaining them, persuading Americans to be more efficient and to change to less harmful technologies. It should be exciting work precisely because of the serious issues involved. There won't be overnight solutions. It will be a grind, but the trip will be worth the effort.


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