Global warming, extinction, drilling
in the Arcticamid the bewildering array of scary news about
the environment, its easy for people to become discouraged.
But according to a new survey commissioned by the non-profit Center
for a New American Dream, even while the U.S. resists international
pressure to reduce American energy consumption and global warming
emissions, 96 percent of Americans say that individuals should take
personal action to conserve energy and protect the environment.
Actively, California seems to be reducing both problems without
sacrifice. A poll, conducted in late July, found that 89 percent
of Californians acted to reduce their energy consumption. Also,
81 percent of Californians who took personal action to conserve
energy during the recent power crunch report that it has not had
a significant negative impact on their quality of life.
We dont have to shiver in the dark or droop in the heat
in order to protect the environment, says the centers
executive director Betsy Taylor. This is a dramatic rebuke
to the myth that Americans have to suffer if they want to conserve
resources. Our findings also show that not only can Americans
reduce their energy usage without sacrificethey are in fact
more than willing to do so.
Turn the Tide
In a national survey conducted by the center, almost two-thirds
of Americans acknowledge that they would do more to conserve energy
if they felt that their actions had a measurable positive impact
on the environment. Fifty-seven percent would do more if they thought
it would teach kids an important lesson. Time, on the other hand,
was not as important a factor, as only 43 percent said they would
do more to conserve energy and protect the environment if they had
But what can just one person really do to make a difference? Nine
things, says the Center for a New American Dream. And whats
more, they can prove it.
In the wake of a new poll revealing that recent action to conserve
energy in California has not had a significant negative effect on
quality of life, the center has launched Turn the Tide,
a program of nine simple actions that individuals can take that
will have a measurable positive impact on the environment. Turn
the Tide provides the necessary information by showing the
actual environmental benefits of these actions using a real-time
on-line calculator that demonstrates to Americans that what they
do really matters.
Visitors can log on to the Turn the Tide Web site (www.newdream.org),
sign up, take a few easy actions and find out immediately how much
carbon dioxide (CO2) they are keeping out of the environment. They
can take a few other actions and find out how many trees and how
much water theyve saved. Participants can click yet another
button to see how many resources all of the programs members
have protected. For those without Web access, the center will provide
a free workbook to report and mail in their calculations. Its
In just the first month of the program, Turn the Tide
participants have already taken personal action that will prevent
the emission of almost half a million pounds of CO2 and save more
than one million gallons of water per year.
But will Americans really take these simple actions to heart and
do them? Nationwide, according to a center survey, almost half of
all Americans are willing to reduce their driving by 20 miles a
week, and seven in 10 would install energy efficient light bulbs.
Using the Turn the Tide Web site calculations, these
actions show a savings of an astonishing 159 billion pounds of carbon
dioxide per year (CO2/y). Even 43 percent would eat one fewer beef
meal a week, saving five trillion gallons of water and 8.5 billion
pounds of grain and preventing the emission of 37 billion pounds
of CO2/y. These three actions alone would account for more than
seven percent of the necessary carbon reductions needed to meet
the emissions targets of the Kyoto Protocol.
As the center sees it, its up to the American people. When
surveyed, only 38 percent of Americans said that they trust government
to provide the necessary leadership on energy conservation and environmental
protection. Power utilities and businesses fared evenworse than
government on leadership, receiving 33 percent and 29 percent of
support, respectively. By contrast, 56 percent said they trust individuals
to provide leadership.