When North America discovered recycled paper, environmentalism was the only game in town. The media was obsessed with it. Companies were terrified of being labeled a polluter. It was cool to be green.
That passion never waned in Europe and in some parts of North America, but it has been substantially sidetracked in corporate North America.
The environmental revolution lost its place on the front pages to other issues.
It's still a bad business decision to be a blatant polluter, but subtle (and not-so-subtle) polluters have had it easy. SUVs should never have been allowed to thrive as a status symbol, but North Americans want security. And those SUVs can plow through a sub-compact car without slowing down. I figure the September 11 attacks added another three or four years to the popularity of SUVs. By all rational measures SUVs should have become a symbol of decadent waste much sooner for our whole society, not just the green brigades.
Dull, boring Al Gore is raising the temperature of public debate on climate change (you remember him, the nerd who thought global warming and the knowledge economy were important). He is having a renaissance as the champion of the environment.
"Today, there are dire warnings that the worst catastrophe in the history of human civilization is bearing down on us, gathering strength as it comes," he says in VF.
"We can solve this crisis," he writes. "Today, we have all the technologies we need to start the fight against global warming. We can build clean engines. We can harness the sun and wind. We can stop wasting energy."
Don't take Al's word for it. Just look at Europe to see what's possible.
www.fuh2.com (more photos of H2s getting the finger)
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