With a world conference beginning to address the issue of climate change, I found two interesting reads this morning in the New York Times. The first is about the conference itself, particularly the cries from the far right about the possibilities of dire economic consequences if we actually take steps to address the issue. Really? I was in Germany last week, which is cloudy like Seattle, and farther north, and yet while traveling by train I passed dozens of solar farms, acres of solar panels quietly creating energy without carbon emissions. At least 30% of the houses seem to have some form of supplemental solar heating. Cars get 40 miles to the gallon and upward. Farther north, it’s wind that’s energizing the Netherlands. Yes, it surely appears that Europe is in the midst of a disaster due to their commitment to be green. In fact, American companies that are working in solar are considering relocating, not because of labor costs, but because the market for their products is Europe and Asia.
The reality is that we’re in the midst of an economic change in the same fashion that we moved to cars from trains at the beginning of the 20th century. However, that wasn’t exactly a pure free market was it: roads, an absolute necessity for cars, came from – tax dollars. The government intervened and provided infrastructure (surely one of it’s responsibilities). Why we are afraid of such intervention today?And before either the left or the right warm up to any of the proposed health care plans, we’d be wise to consider this material, and much more like it that calls us to address prevention. If we go down “prevention” road, however, we’ll need to start thinking about so many things: exercise habits, sleep habits, anti-biotics in food, chemicals in everything. Far easier, I suppose, to simply try (if you’re on the left) to push everyone into a bigger system that is much the same as what we have now, or (if you’re on the right) let the market take care things.
I’d advocate that we shift our paradigm towards prevention and building healthy lifestyles through education and incentives. But, like climate change, such an enormous paradigm shift would be unthinkable because the cost to drug companies, the insurance industry, and some medical establishments would be too high. When the day is done, though we all acknowledge change is needed, I’m wondering if we have the will to make the hard choices on any either important issue, health care, or the environment?