Climate Change and American Exceptionalism

Juan Cole maintains an excellent website called Informed Comment that focuses on the Middle East, climate change and the surveillance state.  He was kind enough to publish a submission I made on the mysterious American failure to respond to a serious threat.  Excerpts:

“In the past we’ve had no difficulty responding to serious man-made environmental threats even when industries warned of economic ruin. During the Reagan era, within ten years of the first alarm about CFC’s, an international convention was put in place to protect the ozone layer. At the height of the Cold War, with militaries and industries anxious to test “better” nuclear weapons, the major powers stopped atmospheric and underwater nuclear testing to avoid irradiating populations. Within ten years of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, DDT use was curtailed, even in the face of predictions of doom. “If man were to faithfully follow the teachings of Miss Carson,” a scientist/executive of the American Cyanamid Company intoned, “We would return to the Dark Ages, and the insects and diseases and vermin would once again inherit the earth……”

” [Many Americans believe] …..God gave humans natural resources for enterprising individuals to exploit. Frontier values and opportunities still endure.

“At least on Earth, climate change threatens to make this last forever untrue and nine billion people can’t become American-type consumers. The United States can’t solve the climate problem at the nation-state level. Our activities have caused harm way beyond our borders and we need everyone’s help—even those whom we have harmed. “We are all Bangladeshi’s now,” as someone memorably put it……”

“……We can build a better civilization on a co-evolving planet but we have to stop thinking we’re so exceptional we can defy the laws of chemistry.”

The full article is at



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