As we all know, President Obama told the story that his daughter knocked on the bathroom door while he was shaving, and asked him, “Have you plugged the hole yet, Daddy?”
As science teachers we are reminded that this question is the kind of question our youth asks about important issues that face us today. In today’s post on the New York Times, Thomas Friedman uses Malia’s comment suggest that this is the time to talk about energy futures. He puts it this way:
This oil leak is not President Obama’s fault. Stopping the spill is BP’s responsibility; it both caused it and it has the best access to the best technology to plug it. Of course, as the nation’s C.E.O., Mr. Obama has to oversee the cleanup, and he has been on top of that. His most important job, though, is one he has yet to take on: shaping the long-term public reaction to the spill so that we can use it to generate the political will to break our addiction to oil. In that job, the most important thing Mr. Obama can do is react to this spill as a child would — because it is precisely that simple gut reaction, repeated over and over, speech after speech, that could change our national conversation on energy.
Friedman identifies three voices that shape the energy discussions: “petro-determinists (convince us that we can not break our addiction to oil),” “eco-pessimists (its too late to break it),” and “Obama-realists (walking lightly on a new energy plan).” Friedman suggests that we need to think the way youth thinks, and perhaps be willing to answer questions such as these:
Answering those questions is the president’s great opportunity here, but he has to think like a kid. Kids get it. They ask: Why would we want to stay dependent on an energy source that could destroy so many birds, fish, beaches and ecosystems before the next generation has a chance to enjoy them? Why aren’t we doing more to create clean power and energy efficiency when so many others, even China, are doing so? And, Daddy, why can’t you even mention the words “carbon tax,” when the carbon we spill into the atmosphere every day is just as dangerous to our future as the crude oil that has been spilling into the gulf?
It is time to move on with a new approach to energy.