The Weekly Planet – An International View on U.S. Environment

Tian Tong Yu

Having lived in the U.S. for over a month as an international student, I am anxious to share my impression of the front-runner in environmental conservation.

I clearly remember arriving at Colgate at 3 a.m. and immediately noticing a brightly lit library, in great contrast against the pitch-dark-night-covered country scene. At that time, I was impressed by how hard-working Colgate students are. Now I’ve learned that no matter how hard-working you are, the library is never as hard-working as you — it always sleeps before 2 a.m. Yet I wonder whether it could get any good rest in such an environment as bright as day.

Introduction to Economics has given me the chance to ponder such issues. The opportunity cost of turning all the lights off is really huge — every Friday night a bunch of drunk partiers and drunk cars suffering “blackouts” would compete for diving into Taylor Lake or Ocean’s 15 would get on their way sweeping all the books away, rendering hard-working Colgate students desperate. However, the benefits of leaving all the lights on are so big that it even could catch a newly-arrived international student’s eye and it is a necessary showoff for the central New York’s wind power campaign that such electricity is environmentally friendly enough to be wasted. Meanwhile the costs are little – only several hundred kilowatt hours a night.

The other thing that I cannot avoid noticing is the “stop” signs because they are everywhere! It is common sense that an SUV consumes more gasoline than the other vehicles and it consumes much more accelerating from a stop. But the fact is that there are countless 4WD SUVs feeding avidly on gasoline and there are countless stops signs to make them even hungrier.

You may say that market drives everything and government controls everything. That’s why there are so many SUVs and that’s why there are so many stop signs. It is absolutely true yet it is not necessarily right. I have been to several western European countries which have once been heavily polluted and faced serious energy problems. The market not only makes small cars prosper but also brings about a whole rocketing environmental industry. The government sets environmentally conscious regulations and is also willing to spend much of its budget on environment conservation programs instead of war; as well as signing Tokyo Protocol instead of talking a lot without doing a little. The result is the a greatly improved environment and a booming economy.

The U.S. should act as a leading country in the world should and do something constructive like campaign for the environment. It’s up to you to make the difference.