Saturday, December 20, 2008


1968: just after the summer of love. yet according to this opinion poll from '68 republished today by the new york times, there was very little love for the modern world in the american people. some highlights: 81% think that law and order had broken down in the u. s.; 72% thought nixon a man of high integrity; 55% said scientific research is changing the world too fast; 49% felt more patriotic after the assassination of bobby kennedy; 31% felt that martin luther king, jr. had brought his assassination on himself. the top worries of 1968 in order: vietnam, civil rights, racial strife, crime (and juvenile delinquency), cost of living (inflation, etc). 2008: the economy, iraq/war, lack of money, health care, unemployment. 67% of the nation thought that black americans were asking for more than they were ready for, but 56% disagreed that blacks have less native intelligence than whites. i think a some of these statistics are kind of surprising. i think it's interesting that the top concerns of the years have changed so drastically. while the cost of living was mentioned in 1968, economic concerns have multiplied and narrowed in 2008. and civil rights issues, while not listed, might have become generalized. sometimes i've wondered if the past decades of the twentieth century have been as different from one another as we're led to believe outside of fashion decisions, but i think these polls do show a change in experience. the experiences my generation faces are completely different from those that my parents did, and while i can relate to some of the civil rights issues that plagues the nation during that era, i have not seen such a struggle affect the nation like it had. i think the wording about modern science reveals a huge change in our perception over the past years. i think science is another field that has been narrowed and specified. i no longer think we could poll for trust in science in general, but would rather need to be much more specific considering all the ways science and technology now affect our lives in a multiplicity of ways.

i wonder if polling toward the economy in different decades shows a trend of ever increasing multiplicity of categories or an oscillation. like i wonder if during the economic crisis in the late 80's and early 90's if specific questions and categories about the economy, breaking economic concerns down into money, housing, health care, inflation, etc, wouldn't become more generalized in the mid- to late 90's during the height of the .com wealth. i think now it will both imperative and interesting for the nation to watch as we prioritize our concerns over our own economy. will health care be pushed to the back burner under obama out of necessity? will green technology initiatives really be a structural part of obama's "recovery" plan?

i think it's a really great time to invest in green technology. and it looks like GM and Ford are beginning to look in the right direction. both these companies have plans for focusing on electric and hybrid cars. icheline maynard for the new york times notes that, "G.M. has pinned its future on the Chevrolet Volt, a plug-in electric car due two years from now, and another small Chevrolet, the Cruze, aimed at many of the same customers who have bought Toyota Corollas the last 40 years," and "Ford, which did not seek federal assistance because its cash reserves are stronger, is adapting two European models, the Focus and the Fiesta, for the American market, and is about to introduce a hybrid-electric version of its Fusion, a family sedan." however, the third of the big three, chrysler, seems like be stymied: "Chrysler discontinued its only hybrid model earlier this fall. It is relying on Nissan of Japan to develop its small cars... Chrysler showed future models that included more new Jeeps, including an electric one, new pickups and muscle cars." so perhaps the big three, or at least two of the companies, will make it after all. although, i must say that it is predicted that if one of the three declares bankruptcy, the other two will probably be forced to followed considering how much the image of the three is tied to together especially now.

there is another american company that works with cars now that i'm especially interested in. the company does not actually produce cars; they're leaving that up to renault (and recently some japanese car companies i believe). better place is supplying the power. they are restructuring how cars get power and use power, much in the way that thomas friedman suggests in his book. these cars will be electric, and the batteries currently installed in the cars keep 100 miles to the charge. better place has designed new quick chargers and recharging will be a lot like a cell phone plan rather than just refueling when you need it, which helps regulate cost at different levels and regulates usages. i first read about this company about a year ago in good magazine when it was planning with israel to recreate an electric infrastructure in that country. now the company has extended plans to include denmark, australia, hawaii, and san francisco. it looks like i have yet another reason to eventually move nine hours south of portland.

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