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Clueless in America

  • Sep. 28th, 2008 at 8:54 AM
Hey everyone, I'm Melissa, an American living in India and working at Mint. I just arrived back in California to visit my parents (after 31 hours of transit). I'll be here for a month blogging from the netherworld of the prodigal daughter trying to make sense of her own country.

I missed the presidential debate (I was in the air!), and I didn't think I'd have a chance to hear how things went until arriving at my final destination. But on my 6am connection flight from Newark, even before the newspapers had hit the stands, the debate was all everyone on the flight talked about. It was exciting to watch total strangers politely disagree about more than just the armrest.

From what I've gathered, the economy and Iraq took up most of the debate's time, as to be expected. Obviously, those are pretty much the hot top two topics. Did they miss any key points or issues? If there are any undecided voters out there, did the debate sway you in any one direction? If not, what are you waiting to hear from the candidates


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redvodka wrote:
Sep. 28th, 2008 05:10 am (UTC)
Key points
I think with the financial collapse of Wall Street, most everyone forgot that the more pressing and important issue to face either candidate is still the climate change and environmental issue.Neither Senator Obama or Senator McCain mentioned the environmental issues much during their campaigns.
Yet, Wall Street will eventually recover and the American Economy will eventually recover from the recent events, i cannot say the same about Earth's environment. If the World's biggest economy do something too little, too late to save the environment or change the mindset of people, the world will never recover at all. And that is a bigger disaster than the mortgage crisis or the collapse of the investment banks.
credendovides wrote:
Sep. 28th, 2008 06:17 am (UTC)
Re: Key points
To be fair, the subject of the debate was foreign policy. The fact that the economy was discussed at all was only because it was such a current and pressing issue for the USA at the moment.

The next presidential debate will be town hall format, including questions from the internet. So hopefully the issues that are really important to the citizens will come up then. One can only hope the environment will be one of the topics. (The final debate will be domestic and economic issues, in a similar format to Friday's, so don't expect to see the environment come up much then either. Probably just as a side note to energy policy and the like.)
views_livemint wrote:
Sep. 28th, 2008 09:17 am (UTC)
Re: Key points
Credendovides, which issues do you think will arise at the town hall meeting? The cynic in me thinks that economic concerns will always take precedence over people's concern for the environment.
credendovides wrote:
Sep. 28th, 2008 09:58 am (UTC)
Re: Key points
I'm going to have to agree with the cynic in you.

Then again, despite it being a "town hall" format with all the questions coming from the audience/internet, the moderator still has an awful lot of influence. Obviously all the questions asked can't be addressed, so someone will have to select what will be. And that person will be able to push their agenda on the topics, deliberately or not.

So I guess my answer is, I'd have to know more about the moderator to be able to say what I think will come up.
tyskkvinna wrote:
Sep. 28th, 2008 03:41 pm (UTC)
Re: Key points
I don't mean to say harsh when I say this, but: I can't afford to be concerned with the environment.

This doesn't mean I don't care, because I DO. And this is a subject I've been thinking about a lot lately. I was reading some fluffy magazine the other day and it dawned on me. They told me I could do my part to help the environment. Okay...

"Drive less!" - I can't. I don't drive unless I have to, and I already plan out my driving so I make the shortest trips possible and don't end up repeating my path. I live in a state that gets a really harsh winter (Michigan) - walking to places for at least 5 months of the year is Right Out. I could take the bus, but they stop pretty early the evening. If I wanted to take the bus from my house to my workplace, which is 3.5 miles away, it would take 2.5 HOURS on our bus system. And I already drive a car that gets 35mpg.

"Recycle!" - I do what I can. I return bottles and cans, which is great because in Michigan we get a 10-cent return on them. But my city charges me for a recycle bin. I'm on a strict budget already, I can't afford the bin. I could take it to the recycling centre, which is 6 miles away from my house one way. And which closes at 5pm..

"Make less trash!" - I don't know how much more I am supposed to change my purchasing habits. When I buy clothes, I don't take the hangers so that they can be reused instead of thrown out by me. The food I buy has minimal packaging, or at least as minimal as each item can get. I use a lot of cloth towels... but I still use a lot of water because I can't afford to update my washer/dryer that's from the late 1980s.

"Grow your own food!" - As I mentioned, I live in Michigan. I also live in the city - I have no particular yard to speak of. I'm not sure where I'm supposed to put this hypothetical garden. I could consider moving elsewhere, but to get a yard I'd have to be further away from my work and essentials, so I'd end up using more gas anyway. Besides that - I already own this home. Thanks to the financial problems lately getting a new mortgage elsewhere is near impossible, especially here.

So all of these suggestions thrown at me were laced with comments like "It's more expensive, but worth it". It might be worth it, but what am I supposed to give up? My food budget is already strained thanks to the sudden rise in food prices. I plan out my gas budget to the gallon. I use enough heat in the winter to not freeze and I don't have any AC in the summer.

I'd love to help the environment more than I do, and I know I'm not alone. But it has to be done in a fiscally responsible manner.
mle292 wrote:
Sep. 28th, 2008 03:50 pm (UTC)
Re: Key points
I think that the major issue, as far as the candidates are concerned, is how they would handle environmental problems on a national level.

Tax incentives for alternative energy use?
Penalties for irresponsible practices?
Increased funding for public transportation?
Stricter regulations on imports that are environmentally destructive?

tyskkvinna wrote:
Sep. 28th, 2008 04:02 pm (UTC)
Re: Key points
The point I was attempting to make (and didn't do so well at) was that it's the same thing, on a larger scale. And that the overall theme is often "It's good for us, but it's too expensive."
zumayabooks wrote:
Sep. 28th, 2008 04:10 pm (UTC)
Re: Key points
Congratulations, and please don't feel frustrated. You're aware there's a problem and you do as much as you situation allows to address it. That's really the most important step, and don't let the "you can do more" fanatics make you feel guilty.

What more can you do? Get on the city's butt about making you PAY for a recycling bin, for starters. That's outrageous--making people pay to help reduce the waste stream. Get in touch with local branches of environmental groups like the Sierra Club. If there are no local branches, contact the nearest one and ask how you might go about organizing such a protest.

Think you don't have the chops to do that? I disagree. Your post was well-thought-out and well-written. You're right--you're not alone. If you don't think you can be a public voice, find one of the others who can and work together.

Does your city utility offer free energy audits? If so, get one--even if you can't afford to address what they might find immediately, at least you'll know what needs to be fixed. If they don't, there's another project.

I lived in extreme northern Pennsylvania in a cheap apartment with a huge bay window that leaked air like the proverbial sieve. In winter, I covered it completely in heavy plastic--and the effect on the heating bills was amazing. Doesn't look terrific, but I prefer warm to aesthetic. And yes, plastic is a no-no to the purists, but at least it's something you can use for another purpose when you're done with it. Not so with the heating fuel.
tyskkvinna wrote:
Sep. 28th, 2008 05:36 pm (UTC)
Re: Key points
I looked up the Sierra Club. There nearest local branch is about two hours away, which also appears to be the only one in my state. At any rate, they seem like a very good organisation and I'll be contacting them this week. I've not heard of them before.

And no, no free energy audits. I also cover my house in plastic come winter. :) It's great isn't it?! Also this spring, as soon as I took the plastic off, I went at all of my windows with caulk because I noticed that the glazing had worn in many places. That should have a pretty decent effect, too. I cover up my attic (which was re-insulated in the past 5 years), keep doors closed and make sure to open the curtains when the sun is shining on them to let the warm light in.

I should probably also mention that I work a little more than full time at a non-profit (that is not directly related to the environment; we're a science organisation) so I already spend most of my days 1) bringing things to peoples' attention, 2) getting people to do things and 3) understanding the uphill battle in getting things to happen. :) You're very, very correct - it doesn't take a lot of people to make big change happen.
redvodka wrote:
Sep. 30th, 2008 04:22 pm (UTC)
Re: Key points
tsykkvina, i understand the points you raised. Even though i do support environmental issues, but the fact of the matter is most ordinary citizens can only help so much, such as recycling and using sustainable or green products and reusing grocer bags rather than using plastic bags. Things is, somehow, we need to make it more convenient and less costly to help out. The private companies ain't going to do that cuz its not in their best interests. Therefore, only the government has the power to do that.
the_paulr wrote:
Sep. 28th, 2008 09:28 pm (UTC)
Re: Key points
In another forum someone pointed out that religion hasn't played a very big part in this election, unlike the last two. One of the reasons was that in 2000 we weren't facing any major crisis so the candidates had the luxury of focusing on social issues.

This, I think, is part of the reason that economic concerns are taking precedence in this election. Gas prices are high, as are food prices, while wages aren't increasing at the same rate. Even without the Wall Street meltdown people are hurting.
derek_cashman wrote:
Sep. 28th, 2008 03:22 pm (UTC)
Re: Key points
McCain doesn't seem to be too concerned with the economy. Remember, his major campaign theme is "Drill, Baby, Drill!"
redvodka wrote:
Sep. 30th, 2008 04:17 pm (UTC)
Re: Key points
[q]"Remember, his major campaign theme is "Drill, Baby, Drill!"[/q]

Wait, i thought that was Bush Jnr's line! lol!
srusso1964 wrote:
Sep. 28th, 2008 09:27 am (UTC)
read the transcripts or watch the debate on the web
I say this only because each person will take from the debates what they wanted to hear. Republicans will say McCain won, Democrats will say Obama won.

For me, points on style and substance went to Obama, and McCain came off looking like an angry old man.

They both came out of it looking like they know what they're talking about - and the average person who isn't really into politics won't see the factual errors, etc. that were made.

Judge for yourself...
credendovides wrote:
Sep. 28th, 2008 09:59 am (UTC)
Re: read the transcripts or watch the debate on the web
The NYT has a great transcript of all the speeches/debates. For example, Friday's debate.
featheradrift wrote:
Sep. 28th, 2008 02:20 pm (UTC)
Considering that the theme of the debate was foreign affairs and economy, I'm surprised that neither candidate brought up the impact America's financial crisis is going to have on other parts of the world.

At least four British banks are seeking financial support from their government, an Italian airline is facing bankruptcy, the euro is losing value against the dollar, and more troubles are in the works. A lot of European banks own American loans, and they will feel it as our financial institutions fold. Some of the bail-outs were actually necessary in order to prevent greater global crisis.

While Obama did try to link a sound /domestic/ economy to strength abroad, neither actually noted the impact this American crisis is going to have on foreign economies. I want to know that my candidate has an international perspective and therefore he can perceive the far-reaching consequences of this situation with regards to more than his personal budget.
as_she_spoke wrote:
Oct. 1st, 2008 02:17 am (UTC)
what people dont seem to realise is that if you dont start doing something about the environment, the economy will suffer. people are sitting here saying oh i cant afford a recycling bin. thats not the issue. its major corporations who are attributing the most to global warming and governments wont to anything to get them to reduce it. people dont seem to understand that there is a very small window of opportunity to fix this. without an environment who needs an economy.
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