On October 17, 1973, members of Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries chose to embargo the United States, Western Europe and Japan for their support of Israel in the Yom Kippur War. Both the United States and Japan responded by looking into alternative energy sources and improving energy efficiency. However, while Americans quickly forgot the lessons of 1973, the Japanese did not. As Peter Schwartz notes (p145)
In 1973, the United States and Japan were hit with the same challenge: a quadrupling of oil prices. The United States responded with a winners and losers scenario in which it was, it eflt, the winner. “This is temporary, we will surely will,” said American policymakers. “We don’t need to worry about it.” Within a year, the United States was importing half its oil. Japan responded instead by completely rebuilding its capital structure to become the most energy-efficient economy in the world.
Americans still saw environmentalism as zero-sum. You could either have economic growth and prosperity, or more environmentally friendly policies, but not both. This is why we are still struggling with what the Japanese figured out over three decades ago.
Today, while Americans are beginning to realize that environmentalism isn’t zero-sum, we are polarized in another crucial national security debate: terrorism. You can either fight terrorists and failed states with force and be safe, or you can avoid force and be overrun by jihadis and rogues.
Americans once thought “sustainable development” was a contradiction. Economic growth and environmental quality couldn’t go together. Yet, we’ve learned they can. What will be our “sustainable counter-terrorism” ?