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To Conserve Or Not To Conserve

To Conserve Or Not To ConserveAround the world, nations are reconsidering their energy policies for a climate-changed world. What will the U.S. choose? Medford/Somerville, Mass.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [09.22.03] This summer, nations in Europe faced sweltering heat and major cities in America's northeast suffered the worst blackout in decades. While Europe immediately looked into updating its infrastructure to deal with energy needs in a climate-changed world, the topic was barely breached in the U.S. But it's time for a change, according to Tufts professor Julian Agyeman, who says the U.S. to needs make the connection between its energy crises and its energy policy -- and make choices as to how to address both.

› Read Julian Agyeman's Op-Ed [here] (requires free registration)

"In America's northeast, blackouts afflicted around 50 million people, because of massive power station failures," wrote Agyeman in his op-ed, which appeared in the Providence Journal. "And what was the discussion here? Conservation by managing energy demand? No. Profligacy by increasing energy supply? Yes."

Agyeman, an assistant professor of urban and environmental policy and planning at Tufts, said that the U.S. has failed to accept what Europe and other nations are already preparing for - the search for sustainable energy in a climate-changed world.

"The U.S. -- Kyoto renegade and the world's biggest producer of carbon dioxide, which comes largely from power stations -- is barely acknowledging the problem which Europeans see (and feel) very clearly," wrote Agyeman in his op-ed, which also appeared in Worcester's Telegram & Gazette.

But while the U.S. government may be late to realize the urgency of the problem, the Tufts professor says that local environmental action shows promise. According to Agyeman, the American populous is making progress at a grassroots level to achieve sustainability.

"While the global climate-change debate goes on, seemingly unrelated local changes are happening which show that although we're at an early stage, the glass may well be half-full, not half-empty," wrote the Tufts professor.

Pointing to successful programs that promote energy conservation -- including installing bike paths and setting up carpool lanes - Agyeman says that communities are addressing the energy issues that federal government is not.

However, the Tufts professor says it's time that industry and government work on the problem as well.

"Instead of citizens or communities trying to prove that harm is being done to them, industry has to prove has to prove that its operation is harmless," wrote the Tufts professor. "This addresses problems that concerned citizens often have had when they butt heads with the legal machines and deep pockets of industry."

Agyeman says that efforts on the part of communities should serve as an example to the U.S. government, as global climate change and energy conservation and consumption become increasingly pressing concerns.

"From small communities to big cities and multinationals, people are looking for new, creative ways of doing things," wrote Agyeman. "Their efforts represent the leading edge of a paradigm shift among corporate and municipal leaders that our national leaders would do well to follow."


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