Preserving the environment should not be a political debate. Leaving the world in better shape than we found it is a moral responsibility that transcends partisan politics. We should all be in agreement that the right to clean air, water, and food is a fundamental human right and non-negotiable. Those who would argue against this are either salaried propagandists or are acting as an unwitting and unpaid shill of polluting industries. Either way, they are unaware or indifferent to the health implications of a degraded environment.
Unfortunately, the moral authority of Washington to lead the world with wisdom and benevolence is rapidly receding, forcing the remaining progressive democracies of the world to expand and fill the vacuum. This means that despite its post-war discomfort with assuming a global leadership role, Germany (and Japan) must step forward and defend the principles that make democratic capitalism the greatest poverty alleviation tool in the history of humankind. However, that defense withers without vigorous support for environmental sustainability.
In Germany, environmental preservation is a passion. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), none of the country’s waste went to a landfill in 2013. Instead, approximately 65% of the waste was recycled or composted, while 35% was incinerated.
By way of comparison, the United States recycled or composted 35% of its waste in 2013 and incinerated 12%. The rest of the country’s waste, a staggering 54%, went to a landfill.
Germany is also a global leader in clean power. At 14:00 on May 15th, 2016, Germany met nearly 100% of its electricity demand with renewable energy. Despite having occurred during peak sunshine hours and strong winds, and renewable energy being more expensive for German consumers, this moment in 2016 does offer a look at what environmental leadership looks like.
Efficient and effective laws are the key to encouraging Germany’s passion for preservation, and the people embrace them enthusiastically. They recognize that smart government is a prerequisite for civilizational development, not a hindrance. Their debates about government center on quality, not quantity. They do not disband entire institutions based on a few kinks in the system, especially when those institutions protect the lives of millions from hazards unseen.
After having spent a combined total of 2 years in Germany, I’ve had the chance to witness the German passion for environmental preservation first-hand. On a recent visit to the village of Oberammergau in the Bavarian Alps, my wife and I had the unique opportunity to experience the benefits of this passion.
A short drive outside the village, visitors can witness a wild deer feeding. Providing the deer with food both helps them survive the winter and it keeps them from eating too much of the forest.
Here’s a video on the experience:
For more on this experience, have a look at my wife’s blog post. Also, please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.