Ladies and Gentlemen, as you are well aware, our country is going through one of its worst economic crisis. Economists have termed it the Great Recession, next only in acuteness to the Great Depression of the early twentieth century. Unemployment has been at unprecedented levels since the 2008 Wall Street crash. And for those who are lucky enough to retain their jobs, real incomes have stagnated and are barely sufficient. Every aspect of American public life has been affected by the government’s inability to regulate corporations. This is particularly disastrous with respect to the financial sector, where, reckless and greedy methods of garnering short-term profit have led to a catastrophic crash in the stock markets and attendant impairments to the broader economy. But there is nothing inevitable about these outcomes. Such cycles of boom and bust in capitalist market economies are by no means laws of nature. To the contrary they are totally man made. They are specially designed and promulgated by the ruling elites of this country – the top one-tenth of the top one percent of the population. This narrow profit motive and lack of concern for the greater common good has accelerated the process of deterioration of environment. I am highly indignant about the nature of our economic system and the ethos of the political class that abets unjust practices. I am also restless to think of alternatives to the system, which we have tolerated and been complicit with for too long. Hence, I shall propose some key changes to our system and society that would greatly reduce the risk of economic and social crises in the future and also protect the environment.
It is a well known fact that our country is the highest consumer of fossil fuels. Despite comprising only 5% of the world’s population, we consume 25% of the total energy resources – mostly fossil fuels. This is both an astounding and outrageous statistic. It is no wonder then that emerging economies like China and India are reluctant to curb their carbon emissions stating they were not responsible for creating the environmental crisis – the culpability largely resting with advanced countries. One of the systemic reasons why America is a high-consumer of fossil fuels is due to the pre-eminence we have accorded to cars as the primary mode of transport. It was after the end of the Second World War, when the United States was able to achieve strategic control of Middle East oil reserves that the State-Corporate nexus decided to create a big market for its consumption. Companies like GM, Ford, etc, along with government policy planners systematically dismantled the more efficient railroad system and offered in its place highway networks for cars and trucks. The latter mode consumes energy at a higher rate and is inefficient in terms of time and per-capita costs incurred. Thus, business elites and a complicit political leadership had altered the course of American domestic transportation fifty years ago. Those who are paying the price for it are the general population – in America and the rest of the world. This is so because carbon emissions let out within the borders of America affect the environmental conditions globally, leading to negative consequences in far and away regions of the world. Hence, it is about time we reverted the high-energy transport system with more efficient modes.
At first glance, it might seem that altering modes of transport will have no substantial impact on the economy or the environment. But, when we consider the ubiquitous presence of cars in our society, it becomes apparent how even minor changes to its usage patterns will have far-reaching effects. For example, the savings an average family makes on transportation charges each month can significantly alleviate their economic distress. Using a public transportation system is not only cheaper but also more time efficient. This is proven through the examples of several advanced countries like Germany, France, etc, where one corner of the country to another corner could be traversed in a matter of 3-4 hours via a high-speed train network. This will significantly reduce the dependency on flights for inter-city travel, further making savings in transportation costs for the average American family. Moreover, the public transportation option will greatly reduce the rate of decline of our environment. As a society, saving the environment should be of paramount importance to us, for the very survival of our species depends on it. The question confronting us is whether we will act wisely and leave a better place for our grandchildren to live in. Or we will allow business corporations will pursue short-term profits and threaten the continuation of our civilization by precipitating an environmental disaster?