The Solar Impulse (a zero-fuel airplane) successfully completed its transatlantic flight earlier this week when it landed in Seville, Spain on Thursday after taking off from New York on Monday.
Pilot Bertrand Piccard remarked after the landing: "The Atlantic has always been this symbol of going from the Old World to the New."
The jarring thing about Piccard's comment is that in the strict geographical sense, he didn't travel from the Old World (Eurasia) to the New (the Americas). He plainly went from the New World (New York) to the Old (Spain).
But if we look at the world through the lens of energy paradigms, there's a sense in which Piccard got things exactly right.
Only in America (the New World) do we have significant numbers of people (with an even more significant amount of political clout) who deny that carbon emissions from fossil fuels are impacting the global climate.
Our fossil fuel lobbyists (and the political machinery that they fund and keep in place) have seen to it that America does everything possible to keep the entire world trapped in the fossil fuel era despite the fact that billions of human beings recognize that energy paradigm for the destructive and unhealthy process that it is.
Clean energy alternatives to fossil fuels pose an economic threat not only to America's energy corporations, but to the banking industry that supports those interests and the war profiteers who use conflicts in the Middle East and Latin America to tinker with oil prices worldwide.
If the world ran on clean energy, the recent coup in Brazil would have been impossible (because the bankers and their political puppets would have had no motive to conspire with the petroleum companies to subvert democracy). If the world ran on clean energy, Dick Cheney would never have had a motive to embroil the U.S. in a war with Iraq over non-existent weapons of mass destruction. If the world ran on clean energy, the American approach to global finance and diplomacy would simply be unrecognizable compared to what it is today.
But since the special interests that benefit from the current state of affairs are determined to perpetuate that state of affairs for as long as possible, the American government has become a tool for trapping the entire world in the status quo. The nation that once stood as a beacon of progress and democracy now serves as a bastion of stasis and oligarchy.
All the accusations that previous generations of Americans leveled against Europe and the Old World (e.g. being mired in systems of political corruption and cronyism) now apply to the current generation of U.S. citizens and the political machinery that is beyond their control.
So I don't think Piccard could have put things more accurately. America has become the Old World, the world of stifling and entrenched power structures that serve only to squelch new ideas and deter progress in the name of ensuring that the profit pipelines of crony capitalists continue to spew dollars into their coffers (and, of course, the wallets of the puppet politicians who do their bidding).
The progressive and democratic ideals that will lead us out of our current self-destructive path will have to come from the other side of the Atlantic or the Pacific--because America has become too old and crotchety to consider changing its ways.