In a recent article published by The Local http://www.thelocal.se/23278/, it was reported that a new study by the Swedish National Environmental Protection Agency (Naturvårdsverket) found nine in 10 Swedes to consider themselves conscious of climate issues. Half of the polled citizens revealed they suffered a guilty conscience when their actions negatively impacted the environment.
In the wake of the upcoming Copenhagen Climate Change Conference, COP15, to take place next month, this seems the perfect time to re-evaluate American habits in regards to the environment and where the country stands on the new climate change deal.
Unfortunately, the United States has been causing a lot of stress to the other United Nation countries involved in this deal, saying it cannot participate so soon in this formal global climate agreement as it is not realistic for the country. But is it really too soon? Others would argue that it is becoming too late, and that time is running out. President Obama has mentioned fears that there is not enough time for the U.S. to commit such an agreement as there is still pending legislation with the U.S. Senate and of course, the issue of cost.
However, the need to take action in reducing greenhouse gas emissions has been stressed as one of the “defining challenges of our century”, according to incoming COP15 president, Connie Hedegaard.
America has never even officially signed, or rather, ratified the Kyoto Agreement, a protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC or FCCC) introduced in 1997, aimed at combating global warming. This is significant as the U.S. Energy Information Administration noted that as of 2005, the United States was the largest per capita emitter of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels.
So what is there to do? Why is America so behind?
Being from California, the San Francisco Bay Area to top it off, I’ve gotten up on my high horses, thinking my home was as green as you could be. Organic clothing outlets, vegan buffets and signs about “going green” every which-way you looked. I have since been proven wrong. In my frequent stints in the glorious nation of Sweden I have quickly learned that that country puts the U.S. to shame when it comes to caring about our Mother Earth.
In California people want to drive a Prius, shop at Whole Foods and attempt to reduce, reuse and recycle. It is the “trendy” thing to do now.
Well, recycling-schmycling. In Sweden they have full on recycling stations in their homes, where they sort everything from cardboard boxes, to newspapers, bottles and plastic containers to batteries and old electrical supplies. Yes, you Swedes reading this may be laughing at my American naïveté and baffled that I find your organized trash and recycling rooms in your apartment buildings to be works of art, but it’s true. I thought our blue containers we put out on the street in California were advanced and efficient, but that was before I saw the 30 square metered recycling room (of which there are two) at my boyfriend’s complex in Göteborg. It is a recycler’s paradise in there, with neatly labeled bins and receptacles complete with photo-ID cards distinguishing where one must put the paper products, the dark glass products, the light glass products, the plastic products, the electrical products and so on. Sweden has taken it to a whole new level-a level that has truly taken America far too long to reach.
In a parody of the United States’ opposition to Socialism, The Daily Show visits Sweden and analyzes the “horrific” effects a socialist government can have on a people. In the episode, Wyatt Cenac tours Swedish Pop Star Robyn’s home in Stockholm. Her “recycling station” in her kitchen is mocked, but really, it is just to show the absurdity of America’s slow assimilation to becoming environmentally conscious http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/tue-april-21-2009/the-stockholm-syndrome-pt--1 . If you have the time, I would check out Part 2 of the report as well for some more satire on why free health care and free education is a bad thing http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/wed-april-22-2009/the-stockholm-syndrome-pt--2 .
Since first coming to Sweden, I have now been trained to organize, separate and reduce my waste and recyclables—a basic skill even a 5 year old knows in this country. I cringe when I accidently throw my plastic coke bottle in the trash can on the street and not the green recycle basket. Having lights on in unused rooms is now a pet peeve and I am completely anal about unplugging all appliances when not using them.
It is definitely a contrast looking at the way I was raised in suburban California compared to my boyfriend’s upbringing in a smaller, Swedish town. And to be honest, it is kind of silly that it is. I could go on for hours about how Sweden, and many other European countries for that matter, are more environmentally aware and advanced than us. Americans need to step it up-from slightly altering their day to day lives to help out the planet, to taking the initiative as one of the biggest world leaders and taking a daring step towards the diminishment of global warming.
I am still counting down to Copenhagen—just 19 days left. Let’s hope for possibly a surprise outcome.