Clean -- and peaceful -- planet


April 19, 1991|By James Reidy III

THE ANNUAL celebration of the Earth is Sunday. The event provides a perfect opportunity to focus our attention on the goal of a clean and healthy planet. In addition, Earth Day provides an atmosphere appropriate to the consideration of a peaceful planet. Indeed, in light of recent events in the Persian Gulf, I believe the issues of peace and energy conservation have become inextricably intertwined.

"The avarice of mankind is insatiable." Aristotle observed this of his species more than 2,000 years ago. Today, our greed for oil appears insatiable. It contributed to our administration's decision to intervene in the Persian Gulf.

We as Americans consume 24.5 barrels of oil per capita per year, and 60 percent of that goes to transportation. The average consumption of oil for the 5.2 billion people of the world is 4.5 barrels each person, each year.

Americans have had many opportunities to reduce our greed or need for fossil fuels. In the 1970s, federal funds were made available for research and development of alternatives to fossil fuels. Where are they now? Our leaders in the 1970s inspired us to reduce our consumption of oil, or conserve our use of fossil fuels, and we did.

Then, during a six-year period in the 1980s, the Department of Energy's budget for conservation and alternative fuel technologies was cut by $221.3 million. Our federal legislature had the opportunity to vote to increase the mandated fuel economy of the U.S. automobile fleet by at least three miles per gallon, but improved efficiency standards were voted down four times in four years. The amount of oil wasted through these setbacks equals the total estimated amount of oil that could be produced in the National Arctic Wildlife Refuge.

Where is our conversation policy today? Missing in action? If we continued to be energy conservation conscious, perhaps we would not need the fossil fuel reserves of the Middle East at all.

I believe both the supporters of the war, and those who oppose it, have been concerned primarily with the safe return of our servicemen and women. I believe that if every American were legitimately concerned with the personal risks these people have taken on our behalf, each of us would be willing to make sacrifices for them in return.

If our leaders are not responsible enough to realize that our continued exploitation of resources will only lead us into other conflicts in the future, it is time we as citizens take the responsibility ourselves and reduce our consumption.

I will not sit idle. I will make sacrifices to stop any further aggression on behalf of my insatiable lifestyle. I will use no fossil fuels Sunday to demonstrate my commitment to bringing back our men and women safely safely from the Persian Gulf.

I choose Earth Day for my sacrifice, because as 1990 state coordinator for Earth Day activities for a national environmental group in Iowa, I discovered many individuals and groups are enthusiastic about a healthier Earth and environment. They felt, as do I, that Earth Day activities that support peace on our planet are very appropriate.

I believe a "Fossil Fuel Free Earth Day" will send a strong message to our leaders and to the producers of oil in the Middle East. I believe we can wean ourselves from this addictive habit.

It is said, "The sins of the fathers shall be visited upon the children." If we make leading less consumptive lives our responsibility, we can prevent the Earth and its resources from being kidnapped from our children.

James Reidy III is an assistant professor of leisure services at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls.

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