Where I'm coming from

Map of Europe 1942


First off, a bit of historical background:  I was born in the summer of 1942 in Switzerland, in a suburb of Basel, just a stone’s throw from the German border.  This was a summer of great uncertainty for the Swiss as the outcome of WW2 was unclear.  The Axis powers (Germany, Italy & Japan and their vassal states) had expanded their territories around the world, and in July 1942 the map looked very different from today. Although the Swiss majority rooted for the Allies, the grim reality was that Switzerland, surrounded by Axis powers, depended on their cooperation to keep vital imports of fuel and foodstuffs flowing. After almost 3 years of war, with no end in sight, folks in 1942 felt unmoored and unsure of the future.

It is tragic for me that now, 82 years later, I experience that same doubtful outlook, but right here in the United States, where I have lived for more than half of my life. Again, the outcome of a global struggle is uncertain, this time between, on the one hand, the English-speaking world, the European Union, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, i.e., advanced, wealthy democratic countries, and, on the other hand, Russia, Iran and North Korea and their associates, i.e. mostly poor, backward nations ruled by dictators. This dicey situation could become catastrophic if the November general election moves the US from one camp to the other.

Add to this worry our sluggish approach to mitigating and adapting to climate change.  I wanted to use the adjective “glacial,” but, alas, Swiss glaciers now melt and move faster than American bureaucracies.  What a contrast to 1942, when the United States turned its entire industrial capacity to winning WW2! Why can’t this effort be repeated?  It’s depressing to see how slowly the Inflation Reduction Act’s legislation is translated into creating jobs, housing, and rebates for consumers. At this point we ought to be doing everything, everywhere all at once. But we don’t. We fiddle, while Rome is burning!

I was lucky to be born in 1942 because the good guys won the struggle of WW2, a war that was followed by a broad-based economic expansion from which my generation greatly benefitted. Whereas our parents tightened their belts and worked hard to make a better future for their children, I’m afraid we’re not living up to their example.  We dropped the ball with climate change and an economy that is anything but fair.  My kids are ok, but the outlook for my grandchildren, all 5 of them in their teens and early twenties, is grim. They’ll get their college degrees all right, but what then?  Housing costs will be hard for them to handle, and with unhealthy climate conditions, they may have to forgo having children, one of the great joys of my life.

We now know what the future will most likely be for our grandkids, and yet, and yet…

  • we don’t build enough functioning EV chargers to make EVs attractive,
  • we don’t build enough housing to make housing affordable again,
  • we have almost stopped building residential solar roofs in California,
  • it took 17 years for a long distance transmission line to get all necessary permits,

and I could go on and on and on.  If the US and Great Britain would have approached their WW2 efforts like this, we would now all be speaking German or Japanese!

What motivates me in my editorship is the knowledge that what needs to be done can be done because it’s been done before, my volunteer work on the OC Sierran newsletter is my effort to change attitudes among a public that shouldn’t need to be urged along to buy an EV, to electrify their homes, and to try harder to reduce their carbon footprints.

We “green” residents of Orange County and members of the Sierra Club simply must play an important role in keeping the future environment livable for the next generations.

Ed Maurer