Paul Starobin, author of "After America: Narratives for the Next Global Age," perceives a pattern that may portend the decline of American power vis-à-vis China, India and other emerging economic powers.
Countries no longer look to American architectural norms as the benchmark of progress, Starobin writes, citing Berlin as a prime example. In the 1920s, the German capital was described as the "apostle of Americanism" by a returning expatriate. Today, though, scarcely one of the new construction projects in the former no-man's land that surrounded the Berlin Wall reflects American architectural influence.
But the problem goes even deeper, Starobin says. Despite persisting U.S. technological leadership, other countries are setting the benchmarks for green innovation. He cites Denmark as a prime example. Within the last three decades, Denmark has doubled the size of its economy without increasing its consumption of energy.
Likewise, Spain leads the way in wind power adoption, just as Brazil set the mark with its adoption of biofuels.
The United Kingdom established the standards for the growing "sustainable tourism movement," which is being reflected in hotels and other tourist-related industries across the world.
Many of the most notable green initiatives are taking place in especially unlikely places. Starobin cites Mazdar City as a prime example. The city, which is being constructed in the Persian Gulf city-state of Abu Dhabi, will function as a 2.3 square-mile, car-free, zero-carbon community — the world's first green city.
Columnist and author Thomas Friedman shares many of Starobin's concerns about the loss of U.S. technological preeminence as growing numbers of countries throughout the world assume leadership in green-industry innovation. Writing in "Hot, Flat and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution — and How It Can Renew America," Friedman contends that green technology design, manufacture and distribution will comprise a major component of national power over the next 50 years.
Likewise, Starobin contends that a major stymieing factor in efforts to jumpstart U.S. green initiatives is lack of willingness to develop a comprehensive national policy — something that is commonplace throughout Europe.
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