Will we wait until West Virginia is a coastal state?

Originally posted 1/18/07 reposted 2/18/07

My wife and I were in England for two weeks over the holidays visiting our daughter who is working on a visa in rural Hampshire. This was our first trip overseas.

I love newspapers and was thrilled to be able to read paper copies of the Times of London and the Guardian among others. One of the biggest differences between the discussions in the US and the UK media is the way in which the issue of global warming is framed. In England even the more conservative papers and columnists seemed to be asking : “Are we doing enough to combat climate change?” Contrast this with the poll in my local West Virginia paper that asked whether people believed in global warming or not. In the United States we seem to be arguing about whether or not there is a problem as the ice caps melt while in Britain they have at least accepted the scientific reality of climate change.

Another difference that I noticed, that relates to climate change, is the mass transit in the UK compared to the US. We spent two weeks in England and traveled by bus, subway, train, and the occasional taxi. Only a couple of times–when we were forced to pay the high price of the taxis–did we regret not having a private automobile. The trains were spotless and full of passengers. Even the subway in London was clean and comfortable. Yet, the locals told us that the trains were terribly inferior to the rest of Europe. I guess the Brits should meet Amtrak to fully appreciate what they have.

A third difference is the size of the cars that they do drive. I saw precious few SUVs and those that I did see were small by American standards. I saw cars two sizes smaller than the smallest cars that the very same global corporations (Ford, Hyundai, Daimler-Chrysler, Toyota, etc.) offer to consumers in this country. When only one person is in a car, do we really need the bulk that we drive around in?

Perhaps, the British are more sensitive to climate change because global warming may very well cover the isles completely but will we wait until West Virginia has oceanfront properties before we admit the magnitude of the problem?

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