The messy photo-finish of the US presidential election had the world watching the scores as if it was the Superbowl. For Nepal, it didn't really matter who won. But for Planet Earth, a lot hung in the balance. The global environment is threatened as in no time in history by prosperity and poverty. Such is the economic might and the ecological footprint of the most powerful nation on earth that who the president of the United States is has an impact on the future existence of the Maldives, and the health of Himalayan glaciers.
Alarm bells are going off all over the world about a planetary climate crisis, and this is when the world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gases needed a leader who can start reversing its wanton and wasteful energy consumption. The United States has only two percent of the world's population but burns up a quarter of its energy.
Everyone made fun of how there was really no difference between Al Gore and George W Bush. They said both had the same corporate sponsors. True. But the two differed on one key issue: what to do about the global environment. Bush is an oil man, and has said he couldn't care less. Gore is committed to an America that burns less fuel because it makes economic sense. Why does America still use twice as much energy as Japan to make the same can of Coke? Europeans, reacting to public opinion shaped by better media coverage, have embarked on a committed drive to cut emissions. Unfortunately, the world's most-powerful nation has public opinion shaped by a media that is becoming more insular. Under-informed Americans are electing leaders whose actions will impact powerfully on the rest of the world, even on the very survival of the biosphere. They're not going to like it, but we'll say it anyway: the world has too much at stake to let only Americans decide who becomes their president.