Monday, June 5, 2017

Heads In The Sand

In general, my personal environmental policy can be summed up in a single sentence: "We have one planet and we should take care of it." It a reasonable sentence and one that covers all manner of sins and policies and everything in between, but in general, I tend to shy away from the almost religious fervor that seems to consume the climate debate, because the debate- at least as it's portrayed in the media and culture- doesn't feel scientific, it feels dogmatic. And as a sort of kind of lapsed Catholic, I have an inherent distrust of dogma of any and all kinds.

That's not to say that I don't believe human beings are impacting the climate. The data alone suggests otherwise. We all drive cars. We all fly planes. We all consume consume consume plastics and thanks to our Iowa caucuses have a love affair with ethanol that only contributes to the use of fossil fuels and increases the problem. It's pretty obvious that at some point- if not for Mother Earth, then for the sake our national security, we're going to have to get off oil.

I wish there was a better way to talk about this issue, but unfortunately the media has made it all but impossible. Something has always got to be about to kill us, because, well, ratings. Back in the 60s, it was supposed to be global famine due to overpopulation. Then in the 70s, there was talk of an ice age. In the 80s it was the hole in the ozone layer (which admittedly, was actually there) and now it's climate change. It's hard for people to take the media seriously about this issue- harder still when they notices that the people screaming about the supposed crisis are all flying around on private jets to talk about how we should save Mother Earth. Celebrities as spokespeople tend to make regular folks roll their eyes just a bit.*

Nevertheless, President Trump has withdrawn the United States from the Paris Accords. The decision was a nakedly political one- and any suggestion otherwise is bullshit. I'm not a climate scientist, but from what I can tell reading the Wikipedia page on US Greenhouse Gas Emissions, we're heading in the right direction. Slowly. Conservatives can applaud and say that "it was a Treaty and Treaties need to be approved by the Senate" but it wasn't about Constitutional principles any more than it was about helping the economy. It was about President Trump pandering to his base- and while all politicians are going to pander, pandering on a global level just so you can go to West Virginia in two years and talk about how good you were for an industry that employs less people than Arby's does is politics at it's absolute worst.

The President didn't have to do this. He could given the issue a wide berth and just ignored it all together. I mean, if we're on track to meet the goals set by Paris**, then who cares? If the business community is increasingly finding ways to make renewable energy and technology profitable and create jobs along with it- then who cares?

In general, I'm not one given to partisan hyperbole. When people say things like, "He's not my President" I tend to roll my eyes and ignore them. Up until now I've more or less trusted that whomever is running things, they're at least aware that their responsibility is to be President of every American- not just the people who voted for them. Not every President in my lifetime has lived up to that ideal, but I've had faith that all of them had been aware of the general notion that what they do had to be for the whole country and not just their party or their base. I can't say that any more. This President has made it clear that he's the President of the people who voted for him and not of the United States of America. And that's sad. It's bad for our democracy. It's bad for the Republic. And when it comes to the problem of human activity impacting the climate, it just leaves our government with it's head in the sand. 

*Ed Begley Jr. can talk to me about the environment whenever he likes. Everyone else with their private jets and their climate conferences in far off places- not so much.

**To be fair, despite having crawled through a Wikipedia page on Greenhouse Gas Emissions and a long ass article from The Atlantic trying to explain what the hell the Paris Accords actually do, I'm not 100% comfortable with this statement. I think (emphasis on 'think') we are- and certainly the push back over the decision from the business community especially seems to indicate that an increasing number of companies are making an increasing amount of money off of renewables/green tech and if there's one thing that's going to move the levers of power in this country, it's money and the people who are making it.

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