Column: A new American independence

“Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” are perhaps the words most often associated with our Declaration of Independence. But also involved in the Declaration were concerns regarding politics, economics and commerce.

Our success in achieving those objectives was due in large part to great leadership and cooperation at all levels, both globally and in our small towns. While in so many ways the world has changed dramatically over the nearly 250 years since July 4, 1776, much is still similar.

Unfortunately, certain issues we confront today are of an even greater magnitude, and to some degree require the acceptance of complex scientific evidence and social and economic change. But by declaring a “new American independence,” we could again play a pivotal role as a nation on a global stage.

This time the issue is not about a tax on tea, but perhaps, in part, a tax on carbon. The critical issue behind this concern is climate change, caused by greenhouse gasses. It is a process that has been acknowledged by virtually all climate scientists, the U.S. military, and The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

And although this poses a serious threat to not only all Americas, but the entire planet, some groups and leaders have difficulty believing the scientific evidence.

The United States has long been a leader in the global economy and technology. As a relevant example, the first efficient solar cell was developed at Bell Labs in New Jersey, and exported throughout the world. But today, other countries, notably China and India, have become dominant factors in this and other advanced technologies.

We, as a nation, have a great opportunity to declare our independence from fossil fuels and retake our leadership role in the development of a futuristic green economy. Solutions go way beyond just solar, and may even reach to “mechanical engineering” for solutions.

Carbon sequestration is just one example of advanced research being considered. Both government and private cooperation will be important, and perhaps essential.

While much of this requires a global approach and leadership, some accomplishments can be attained at a local level. Solar panels on town buildings would be a reasonable effort. And perhaps an electric vehicle? Shelter Island already has a charging station.

How about our LED lighting? ALL seem cost effective, especially when we consider the cost of continuing just business as usual.

Declaring our new, futuristic, independence may be the greatest challenge not only for the United States, but all of humanity. Consider all we have helped to accomplish: the Marshall Plan, NATO, the U.N., a cure for polio, a man on the moon, the Human Genome Project, much of the Internet, to mention just a few achievements in a very long list.

We now have the opportunity make a major transition for the planet, forge many alliances between businesses and governments and strengthen our role as a global leader. We each have the freedom to make such meaningful choices as individuals, to declare our own version of green independence, and continue to provide life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for everyone.

— Islander Herb Stelljes has a master’s degree in biology and additional studies in theoretical ecology.