AMERICA CONSUMING THE WORLD
THE PERCEPTION AMERICA HAS OF ITSELF
AMERICA CONSUMING THE WORLD
(This is perhaps one of the things about the U.S. that Europe and the rest of the world find so appalling)
From the “Green Issue” of Vanity Fair - May 2007
The incredible spurt in American consumption since the 1970’s would not have been possible if we didn’t have the world set up so the lion’s share of it’s resources flow to us, and if we weren’t so rich. The U.S. economy is so massive that in gross domestic product each state is comparable to a foreign country: Mississippi to Peru, Florida to Brazil, California to Italy, Texas to Canada, North Carolina to Sweden.
It is this affluence, and the unnecessary spending that it sucks you into, that is driving much of the destruction of the planet. As many as a million flights a year are taken by passengers solely for the purpose of keeping up their elite status, so they can hang out in the business - class lounge at the airport, get pre-boarded, and collect their luggage first. Airplane fuel adds 600 million tons of carbon dioxide a year to the atmospheric mix - 3.5 percent of the global human total. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that sooner or later an economy based on more and more consumption is going to collide with the reality that the earth has only so many raw materials to offer. The 300 million Americans that make up 5% of the world’s population collectively consume 25% of the earth’s energy.
The U.S. is responsible for 35 percent of worldwide carbon emissions since industrialization. Thanks in part to our oblivious hyper- consumption of oil, trees, minerals, and other natural resources around the world, species are disappearing 100 to 1,000 times faster than they have in millennia. Our belief in the “myth of superabundance,” a phrase coined back in 1963 by Secretary of the Interior Stuart Udall, now has to be retired. The sooner America gets it, the fewer of our fellow creatures are going to die, and the more hospitable and habitable the planet we leave to our children and grandchildren will be.
THE PERCEPTION AMERICA HAS OF ITSELF:
From Robert Kagan:
"Americans have the wonderful capacity to forget their history and how they got where they got, as if it was all some big God-given accident that all of a sudden you are the hegemonic power in the world. But this anti-imperialist country, from before the time it was born, made innumerable wars on Indian populations and drove the Spaniards, French, and British off the North American continent, and then at the turn of the century went to war and found itself with an actual empire, which, even though they were anti-imperialists, they held onto for the next forty years. The United States is not a country that has been sitting around for 400 years minding it's own business. We have been a very aggressive nation. It is one of the great ironies that Americans to this day think that they are a country that sits around minding it's own business."
From Noam Chomsky:
After the mid-19th century conquests of the American Indians, New York editors proudly observed that the U.S. was “ the only power which has never sought and never seeks to aquire a foot of territory by force of arms” ; “ Of all the vast domains of our great confederacy over which the star spangled banner waves, not one foot of it is the acquirement of force or bloodshed” ; the remnants of the native population, among others, were not asked to confirm this judgement. The U.S. is unique among nations in that “ By its own merits it extends itself.” That is only natural, since “ all other races...must bow and fade” before “ the great work of subjugation and conquest to be acheived by the Anglo-Saxon race,” conquest without force. Leading contemporary historians accept this flattering self-image.
Such doctrine could not easily survive the cultural awakening of the 1960’s, despite the fact that we were regularly regaled by orations on how “ for 200 years the U.S. has preserved almost unsullied the original ideals of the Enlightenment...and, above all, the universality of these values....although we are reaching for the stars and have showered less favored peoples with our benevolence in unmatched flow, our motives are profoundly misunderstood and our military intentions widely mistrusted, it is very sad that others fail to understand the nobility of our cause”
Writing in 1992 on “ the self- image of Americans,” New York Times correspondent Richard Bernstein notes with alarm that “ many who came of age during the 1960’s protest years have never regained the confidence in the essential goodness of America and the American government that prevailed in earlier periods,” a matter of much concern to cultural managers since.