A Culture of Waste

Photo by Mounir Ennenbach A leaky faucet is something that many of us pass by unnoticed every day. Yet last December, when I heard the first drops streaming from a leaky showerhead in my suite, I decided to conduct a little experiment. It took a total of seven days for the faulty showerhead to be fixed, including three days after reporting the issue myself to the Hospitality Desk. In the process, 231 gallons of water were lost, or 33 gallons per day. By comparison, the per capita daily availability of water in Jordan, the country where I grew up, is 24 gallons.

Living between two large rivers, we take it for granted here in Manhattan that some 800 million people around the world have no safe drinking water supply.

As declared by Paul Roberts, author of The End of Oil, in the 2006 documentary Who Killed the Electric Car?, “For most Americans, when you talk about a sensible energy policy, what most people hear is: ‘You’re gonna make me drive a small car, you’re gonna make me keep my house cold, and essentially gonna make me live like a European.’”

This culture of waste, however, is not sustainable. Our resources, water, fossil fuels, natural habitats, are scarce, and at the current rate that we are exploiting them, we are setting in motion an environmental and humanitarian catastrophe that will impact future generations. We are living in an age that requires a paradigm shift in our thinking on environmental responsibility.

Looking at America’s ecological track record for the past twenty-five years, it is hard to believe that we were once leaders in a golden age of environmental policy that lasted through the ‘60s and the ‘70s. Since then, however, there have been repeated setbacks to the conservation movement, with oil companies leading the lobby to curtail governmental actions against some of the most critical issues of the day, including climate change.

With the most recent climate talks at Doha, Qatar, ending with the characteristic urge to combat the effects of anthropogenic climate change, but unwillingness to take tangible measures to further this end, we must look for domestic goals. Recently, Congress extended the federal wind energy Production Tax Credit through 2013 as part of the much debated “fiscal cliff” talks. A tax break of 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour of wind energy produced is expected to maintain 37,000 American jobs this year. It will also help create more jobs in the wind energy industry since the policy covers projects slated to begin in 2013.

Senator Mark Udall of Colorado, an ardent supporter of wind energy, stated that “the one-year extension of the credit gives manufacturers in Colorado and throughout North America the signal they need to create jobs, make capital investments in the United States and ensure that wind energy remains a strong part of our national energy strategy.” With complete energy independence having been one of the main topics of discussion at the Presidential debates last year, this development assumes a more significant role for the renewable energy industry.

This news, however positive as it may seem, should be taken with a grain of salt. First of all, the tax credit has been extended only to the end of this year. This means that the bill could potentially be struck down next year on its way through Congress. Industries cannot be built on shifting sands; they need a solid base from which to mature. The government step up its role in the environmental movement today. Perhaps Columbia should set an example by fixing its leaky pipe system.