Want a non-military related example of the principles I referred to in my recent post, “Moral Responsibility is not Anti-Americanism”?
Think the Kyoto Protocols.
Back in December, the very first act of the government of newly elected Australian Prime Minister Rudd was to ratify the Kyoto Protocols. This leaves the U.S. as the sole remaining developed nation which has not committed to the agreement. The Democrats, who are so willing to campaign on environmental issues and sustainability, have been tepid at best in their efforts to promote the treaty. Republicans have sneered, scoffed, and actively opposed any cooperation in the agreement.
There are a few different reasons which people give for resisting Kyoto. Some simply refuse to believe in human-influenced global climate change (though their numbers dwindle over time). Or they might accept some problems, but insist that those ills can best be cured by a laying off of hands, so that the omnipotent and omnipresent panacea of The Market can work its mighty miracles. They reject the Kyoto requirements because they might potentially have negative consequences on the U.S. economy (a strange protest, as global climate change is much more likely to wreak worldwide economic havoc if left unchecked). Those can all be argued at another time. But the most common, and yet least sensible, reason I’ve heard is that Kyoto is “biased” against the U.S, setting a higher bar for us and others among the developed nations than it does for “developing” nations—including such populous and polluting nations as India and China. The Senate in 1998 unanimously (that is all senators, Republican and Democrat ) passed Resolution 98, which asserted that the U.S. would not become a signatory unless emissions requirements were standardized for all nations. The Bush administration, to the extent that they have even acknowledged the human impact on atmospheric carbon levels and climate change, has used this as the excuse for dismissing Kyoto.
“It isn’t fair! ” is the essence of this argument. “Why do we have to and not them? ”
Certainly, we should be concerned with the incredible levels of pollution created by the rapidly industrializing juggernauts. I would strongly encourage China and India and the rest to be responsible for their emissions levels and to seek a more sustainable path to development. But we need to consider the moral principles I discussed as we examine at the situation. We need to take a good look at ourselves as we address the issue of global climate change rather than point fingers elsewhere.
We have been the primary cause of carbon emissions for more than half a century. It was either created by us, or created by other nations as they exported resources or goods to feed our voracious consumption, or created by other nations seeking to emulate the very attractive U.S. consumer lifestyle. It is only just that we should take responsibility for it.
Developed nations have a great deal which we can sacrifice in order to cut emissions. Our standard of living is better than the vast majority in developing nations by several orders of magnitude. We, “those who have,” can certainly change our culture for the good of the planet. Developing nations, which are still grappling with rampant poverty, malnutrition, and a dearth of resources necessary for a secure life for its population, have much less to sacrifice.
If our nation is to be the world leader we like to think it is, we need to be willing to lead. The Savior showed that leadership is less about ordering others around than about blazing the trail, sacrificing, and serving others.
Our nation should sign Kyoto or some other similar international agreement. Our commitment should not be based on whether others have the same level of commitment, or whether other nations have disingenuously signed without strong intent to fulfill their goals. We should have the integrity not only make a concerted effort to hit the targets, but exceed them. We should use our vast resources, ingenuity, and will to provide the model of how a nation can embrace sustainable development, and secure a health lifestyles and communities for its citizens. Once we have done so, we will have the moral authority to exhort other nations to join us on that path. We will have the experience not only to show the developing nations what they can accomplish, but help them to avoid the pratfalls we’ve found and the errors we’ve made in the past.
That is leadership.
The reticence of our elected officials has put us behind the game. But I’ve no doubt that we can galvanize our politicians if we impress upon them our concern for good stewardship of our planet and a mature sense of moral responsibility.