By Andrew Bushnell, Qualified Energy Savings Project Planning Intern
For the better part of 10 days, I have been studying, traveling, and living in Vietnam. I am here through a SPEA overseas program that includes a collaborative learning experience with the Hanoi University of Science. Our class meets almost everyday, with the exception of excursions to national parks, day trips to local sights, and weekends. The class is a mixed group of 12 Vietnamese students and 10 Americans, and we have been learning and studying environmental and resource management in Vietnam and the USA. While I have already learned a lot from the class, I think one of the most interesting topics we have discussed is Vietnam’s response to global climate change. Since much of the economic activity and agriculture is concentrated along the extensive coastline, rising sea levels will have a severe impact on the country. Unlike the United States though, the government of Vietnam has officially recognized the effects of Global Warming and organized a National Target Program to response to Climate Change (NTPRCC) to research and develop feasible action plans to help mitigate possible damage from GCC. Students in the class all expressed that they personally believed in global climate change and were actually quite surprised when we told them that it is still debated hotly in the US. Interestingly enough, they even went on to say that it is rare in Vietnam for someone not to believe in GCC. It is so common, that many times it is used as an excuse. Why has it not rained in a month? GCC. Why did the rice crop go bad? GCC. People blame GCC for all sorts of things here in Vietnam.
So why is it that the people of Vietnam, who are much less educated, wealthy, and equipped to deal with climate change, are the ones who have so readily accepted it as a fact. Perhaps it’s the fact that you can use it as an excuse, or perhaps it’s a cultural difference. Whatever the answer, I thought it was refreshing to see a whole country who has come to terms with an issue that seems so clear, but continues to be a debated in the US. Maybe it is time for the US to take a lesson from somebody else for once in a while. If other countries in the world are prepared to address GCC, then where does that leave the US when we realize its actually happening? We are world leaders, and probably one of the most competitive cultures in the World. Even if we don’t believe in GCC, other countries do and are taking measures to be prepared. We’re going to get left behind if it happens, so at least get in the game, USA. You’re still just a bench warmer.