Hillary Clinton’s “Plan to Address the Energy and Climate Crisis” includes an interesting section titled, ‘Individual Responsibilities’. This section of the plan calls on individual citizens (as well as schools, colleges, and communities) to help address this “crisis” by making simple changes in their daily lives. For instance, Hillary would “issue a challenge to all Americans to sign a pledge to take steps in their own life to reduce energy consumption in measurable ways”.
Now, I am a big fan of such measures. I personally don’t need a politician to tell me to be responsible about energy use and to live with an environmental conscience; I already compost, recycle, use mass transit, pay attention to energy use, etc, etc. But, is the average American willing to make such life style changes? Can the Blackberry-totting, Expedition-driving, McMansion suburb-living soccer mom come to grips with her consumptive lifestyle? Are Americans capable of such change without being whiplashed into it (e.g. $10/gallon gasoline)?
When I read this portion of Hillary’s plan, I immediately thought about Jimmy Carter looking rather comfy in his cardigan sweater sitting by the fireplace giving one of his fire side chats. We heard in lecture on Tuesday how Carter’s petition to Americans to turn down the thermostat and to throw on a sweater was a suicidal move in his presidency. People viewed this as insulting to the American lifestyle and that it made him look weak. I live in America; I have the right to crank up the heat in February in Fargo, ND so I can comfortably stroll around the house in my underwear!
But seriously, this call for individual responsibility in Hillary’s plan is a very important aspect of tackling the “Energy and Climate Crisis”. It is but one crucial aspect of a multifaceted approach that is needed to curtail consumption and waste. I just find it hard to believe that the average American is ready to be petitioned by a cardigan-wearing president (Hillary or otherwise) to “turn down the thermostat”.