Contemptuous? The U.S.? Maybe

Man, I just flew in from London, and boy, are my arms tired—badda-bump. In all seriousness, I'm still shaking off jetlag after traversing the Atlantic to attend a gathering of the world's engineering and building trade press. In one of the event's sessions, hosted by the militantly punctual, but most gracious, folks from Siemens Building Technologies, Zurich, the subject of energy and CO2...

07/01/2004


Man, I just flew in from London, and boy, are my arms tired—badda-bump. In all seriousness, I'm still shaking off jetlag after traversing the Atlantic to attend a gathering of the world's engineering and building trade press. In one of the event's sessions, hosted by the militantly punctual, but most gracious, folks from Siemens Building Technologies, Zurich, the subject of energy and CO 2 reductions came up. SBT's Tim Holstein laid out the notion that sustainable buildings, in the company's opinion, are a big part of the solution for resolving global warming problems. At the least, he said, it's a way for companies to meet initiatives spelled out in the Kyoto Protocol. He went on to note a number of interesting sustainable projects SBT's involved with, including a few here in the United States. He also lauded U.S. initiatives in the LEED and Energy Star programs. Following Mr. Holstein's presentation, a Swiss journalist questioned the point, stating some countries, which he wouldn't name, won't even make a pretense of meeting the protocol. Being a representative from one of these "unnamed" nations, I asked Mr. Holstein if he believed the U.S. would ever agree to the protocol's requirements. He politely said he "did not know."

Most of us can easily answer that question—as long as the current administration remains in power, that is. I personally find the official U.S. snub of the protocol a shame and certainly not in the spirit of global unity, granted, many other key players are also failing to comply. I further discussed these issues over a pint with a Dutch journalist and came to the conclusion that even the best environmental actions in the U.S. are almost all motivated by money. And with many Americans driving around in colossal SUVs, it's hard to argue that we're serious about energy conservation on a personal, let alone, national basis.

This issue of CSE is dedicated to energy conservation and the efforts the U.S. M/E/P engineering community is making to dispel the notion that all Americans are contemptuous of environmental concerns. Indeed, I hope the actions of the community speak louder than its words and that engineers can be leaders for our fellow citizens, and perhaps the world. I know this is possible, as on my trip to the Old World, and specifically, a visit to the Musee d'Orsay in Paris, the works of an environmentally conscious American, Louis Sullivan—the master of organic building ornamentation—hang proudly amid the greatest works of 19th-century European artists. That sure beats McDonald's as our best contribution to world culture.

A final note of American pride in the wake of our 228th birthday: the U.S. justice system. In April, you may recall my rant on reactionary politicians, Orwellian overtures and media law. Since then, a federal appeals court has struck down a number of changes implemented by the FCC that would have further relaxed already abused media ownership rules. Such a spanking, as we grow as a still-youthful nation, is the kind of "attention-getter" more businesses need. Pure speculation here, but if we even nominally curb our greed, maybe the rest of the world won't find us so contemptible.





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