Last week filmmaker, Michael Moore, said, “If you think Covid-19 has been a bummer, then trust me, you literally can’t imagine just how awful earth’s revenge against us is going to be for trying to choke it to fucking death. We are in a serious, multilevel planetary emergency.” His belief, which is widely held, is that the earth can and will take care of itself. Eventually, it will react in a very natural way to all of the environmental damage we have inflicted, and auto-correct by killing enough of us to fix the problem.
To stave off disaster, we’re going to have to bring 7.8 billion self-absorbed people in 195 self-absorbed countries to agree on some meaningful course of action. As daunting a task as that may seem on the surface, it can be done, but it’s going to have to be done a lot differently than we’ve approached the problem so far.
Our Party has sort of chosen The Green New Deal as its environmental prescription for the nation. We have made this declaration knowing full well that almost none of its provisions has any real chance of success. In other words, it’s a partisan document that ignores the fact that the opposition won’t support any of it. So, what do we do then? Sit smugly back as the world slides into catastrophe and blame the Republicans. “I told you so” doesn’t strike me as a serious approach to an end-of-human-existence kind of problem.
The truth is that our environmental problems are becoming more and more critical everyday, and we all know it. I am genuinely fearful of what kind of world my children will inherit, but we cannot attack our problems by degrading those with whom we disagree. We can make positive headway, but not if our underlying motivation is to raise money and play politics. We have to reach out to the other side and make progress, or we are as much part of the problem as they are.
To prepare our democracy for action, we need to eliminate what is difficult for the average person to understand. Climate change or global warming are just buzz words to most, but we can understand what we can see, hear, smell and feel. People don't need to understand the science, when they can see trash filling an area in the ocean bigger than some countries; hear about plastic molecules found in rainwater; taste chemical spills that foul our rivers; and experience entire valleys filled with our trash. All of us, Democrats, Republicans and Independents, already understand we’re in environmental trouble. The political will already exists to do something, if we are reasoned in our approach.
No Republican will ever follow our lead if our approach is, “You dumb, uncaring, megalomaniacal assholes…” Why should they? To create meaningful environmental policy, we need to get off of the special interest bandwagon and get to work finding meaningful, open-hearted ways to work together. Radical gets us nowhere. Reasonable gets you part way there today, and a little further tomorrow.
I read a book recently that made a point that has haunted me every day since I read it. The author said, that reducing our carbon footprint is a meaningless gesture if we don’t get population growth under control. Population control has been a bug-a-boo since Stanford biologist, Paul Ehrlich, gave us his apocryphal predictions back in 1968 with his landmark book, The Population Bomb. The fact that so many of his predictions were so wrong has hurt us dramatically in the public debate, but his underlying truth remains undeniable. For most of human existence, we slid along with a world population of less than a billion people. Today, it’s almost 8 billion. Depending on how long I live, it could double twice in my lifetime. We’re solving our problems in keeping people alive, but we’re not solving our problems created by keeping people alive.
Maybe we can find an easy and affordable renewable energy source, and maybe we can figure out a way to dispose of our waste products without polluting our world. The trouble is, we’re just not doing it. All we’re doing is chasing money like it was the end of the world, which is directly leading us to the end of the world.
Our problems are real. We can see them, smell them, taste them and feel them, but to solve them, we’re going to have to do a lot more than create a catchy slogan filled with unreasonable expectations. We’re going to have to reach religious, business and cultural leaders, as well as scientists and maybe a mom or two before we ever take it to a politician. Our goals are not the same.
Photo courtesy of efe.com.