Concern about climate change comes home

Thursday, January 18, 2007

"We used to look at environmentalism as a hobby for the high-minded," writes Thomas Friedman, a New York Times columnist.

"But conserving energy and living a 'green' lifestyle is actually the most patriotic thing you can do today. It fights global warming, protects nature, shrinks our dependence on foreign oil and makes America a model others want to follow. Green is the color of patriotism. Green is the new red, white and blue," Friedman writes.

Friedman, also author of "The World is Flat," is right on the mark.

Environmentalism used to be the province of hermits and hippies riding in flower-painted Volkswagen microbuses.

Later, the issue belonged to liberals who found little welcome in much of Nebraska, especially somewhere like the aptly named the "Republican Valley."

Al Gore's popular, "An Inconvenient Truth" film has helped turn the tide, as has the awakening of the religious right, which has embraced climate change as a moral issue as it sees satellite imagery of the shrinking arctic ice cap.

Now, the most politically conservative among us see the folly of over-fertilization of cropland, resulting in nitrates in our drinking water, and feel the pain from the cost of filling up our tanks with fossil fuel. Our friends and loved ones are pulled away to fight in a war we probably wouldn't be involved in, were it not for the abundance of oil under the Middle East.

Southwest Nebraska has long played a role in the energy economy, as home to large oil deposits, but now is taking on a new role, with an ethanol plant running full steam near Trenton, another under construction at Cambridge, one planned near Perry and another announced this week for Moorefield.

Ethanol promises to reduce our dependance on foreign oil, but there's no reason it should stop there. The Golden Plains have great potential for producing power from wind, the sun -- and even future hydrogen systems -- all of which have the potential to slow global warming.

Anyone who has lived through the ongoing drought in Southwest Nebraska, or even the first month of this winter, should not be hard to convince that we have a stake in our environment.

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