Although consciousness of environmental issues, primarily the need to conserve energy, is spreading in the United States and throughout the world, many citizens of the US seem to adopt one of the following mindsets: that there are much more resources still available than most of us presume, that problems aren’t as serious as scientists and other authorities claim, that their own actions will not make a real difference, or that it is not their responsibility and that others will eventually fix the problems we are currently having - others with the time, and the power. Needless to say, this is a real problem since the US is largely responsible for the consumption of natural resources worldwide. As Mackin pointed out, these ideas, or the denial of the severity of environmental issues, seem to stem from the fact that the US has such a powerful economy, that in this country many of us never perceive any shortages, of anything really. Assuming you have the money, you will have and can get everything you need here, so because these problems aren’t real to many people until they experience them themselves, it makes perfect sense that the mindset of the general public in America is stuck where it is.
According to a recent article in the NY Times, everyone in Japan, including the government, businesses, and citizens, is extremely concerned about energy conservation and reducing consumption in general. In 2004, Japan consumed less than a quarter as much energy as America did, and the population is about 40% that of the US. Japan is currently producing all sorts of energy-saving appliances and cars, which are catching on domestically, and are largely responsible for the reduction of their energy consumption over the past few years. So why is Japan so far ahead of us? The reason is likely because of the small size of this country, along with the fact that Japan’s access to resources is extremely limited (making them very dependent on other countries) which people realize means that conservation is crucial to maintaining a strong economy and a high standard of living. This point shows that when people have to deal with these problems, or must be aware of them for their own livelihood, then they are aware of them. Fortunately, the concern about the availability of resources in the future is increasing everywhere because these problems are becoming real; everything is starting to be affected, and the awareness that this is happening is indeed spreading. Since countries like Japan are setting an example and beginning to make technological innovations to save energy, hopefully we will begin to see a similar shift in ways of thinking, and acting, here in the US. Hopefully we can find ways, as Japan has, to adapt our economy to our own changing needs, as well as the changing needs of the world.