Cultural

The American culture with regards to technology is that of embracing technological advancements despite the risk and uncertainty that comes with technology. From the historic adoption of rail, cars and ultimately air transport, technology has been a source of world prestige for Americans. The Space shuttle program under NASA is one such example. Indeed television, the internet and now the use of mobile phones are accessible to most Americans as illustrated below.

Change in Energy Use Practices in Homes with Increased Use of Electronics:

Credit / eia.gov

These devices demand energy. However, due to the individualized culture in the US, almost everyone owns some electronic. From “personal computers” to mobile phones and most recently tablets, the need for mobile and immobile energy sources has surged over the years. This combined with the “inheritance attitude” and entitled culture where Americans were used to big cars that used lots of gas leaves generations of wasteful energy use. Recent economic and energy crises and the rise in the debate on global warming have highlighted the need to re-evaluate energy use practices within the US and the world at large. Globalization has forced the US to understand that it is depended of world energy sources that it must start using sustainably with increased growth among emerging markets like China, Russia, Brazil, and South Africa.

This consideration is of-course being spearheaded by environmental scientists, energy experts and all sorts of activists. Globalization has turned America into implementing sustainable initiatives to show the rest of the world that it is helping alleviate global concerns over global warming. America’s self proclamation as a “world leader” is at conflict with its capitalism centered economic growth. This is because while the US should be leading the climate change solution drive, it’s energy dependent growth and industry still require lots of unsustainable energy such as coal and gas, generating large amounts of pollution. To mitigate this negative spotlight, America is using its long known support for science to fund research and innovation in sustainable and renewable energy.

The search for renewable energy and sustainable energy sources has not been overnight. Years of research have developed a range of solutions such as ethanol based fuel, solar, wind and recently the electric cars. However, despite the success in innovation, cultural and social perceptions have hindered progress in implementing sustainable energy solutions across the US. Despite funding and belief in the need for energy independence among Americans, most are reluctant to adopt technologies such as solar, wind and bio-fuels because of recent discoveries of “shale gas”. With possibilities of up to a century of gas drilling and “fracking” in the future, Americans see no rush for adopting renewable energy due to the abundance of relatively cheap coal and gas.

Weak and conflicting policy, a result of the complex bureaucracy in Washington and other state offices, has left a weak implementation of green energy projects. “Shale gas” is for example portrayed a s a transition fuel yet the transition is likely to last decades with no definite switch to green energy. This tolerance for risky energy producing processes such as “fracking” and coal mining is dominant across the US. Arguments that wind and solar are too expensive, destroy neighborhood beauty and “eye pleasing views” are used to overshadow the positive aspects such as a guaranteed long term return on invest and cheaper energy from renewable energy sources. The individualized culture of Americans also limits the ability to benefit from scale through implementing large solar and wind farms as is done across Europe to benefit from large scale energy production.

Despite the above obstacles, colleges and universities have embraced their role as centers of learning, research and innovation and implemented campus sustainability campaigns. By partnering with neighboring communities, these campuses are becoming centers of and models of the plan to green America and the world (Goral 2010). Current students and faculty are producing cutting edge research and innovative solutions that transform campuses and communities such as the use of visual methods to involve students in sustainability (Castleden 2011). The challenge is to transform current America from a wasteful culture of big gas consuming cars to that of environmentally conscious and sustainable, energy saving citizens. America is turning green “one building and individual” at a time thanks to the effective model based approach of institutions of higher education. The current model involves master plans that create specific targets and implementation policies for creating sustainable or green campus and ultimately communities.

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