13 November 2014


You arrive at New York's Penn Station fifteen minutes ahead of the train's scheduled departure, uncharacteristic of you, but your morning meeting in DC is important, and out of nervousness, you left the apartment a little early. While you stand on the platform, you shake your head thinking of the old days in which you would be biting your fingernails in the taxi crawling through traffic to the airport, and suffer the indignities of the security line for a flight, the door to door time being four hours. You never cease to marvel at the sleek white bullet trains as this one pulls into the station, or at the ease of the 2 hours door to door that your journey will take today.

High speed train in Hamburg Station

Though this may seem like a fantasy, it is the reality today in Europe. Germany, especially, has made tremendous investments in its high-speed rail system, and is reaping the rewards. The world marvels at the German miracle, but it is no miracle, it is the result of smart investment. The Deutsche Bahn connects Europe, creates a very efficient place for people to work and live, and, not coincidentally, binds the continent together. Germany is also making major investments in renewable energy, investments that will pay off many times in the future, as have the investments in high-speed trains.

Evening storm clouds over wind mills in Baltic Sea

In America while our politicians debate the reality of climate change, scientists, unless they are under the pay of climate deniers, unanimously stress the urgency for action to reduce carbon release. Investments are never easy when they are made, but they pay off. As the world changes, the conditions will favor new industries, and the old interests will resist that change. It has always been so: carriage makers undoubtedly fought the dominance of the automobile. The world will change, and carbon energy will be obsolete. Those that have invested in alternatives will come out ahead, those economies that have been dominated and directed by obsolete industries will stumble.

Humans are not good at reacting to threats that they cannot see. When there are opposing information sources, one saying to worry, change will happen, the other saying not to worry, one wants to believe the voice of inertia. But the time has come to act, and get that fast train to DC.

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