Monday, May 18, 2015

The Long Hot Summer

Campaigning for the 2016 presidential nomination has already begun. Most of the interest has been directed toward the Republican Party, which is on track to field some three dozen potential candidates. Over on the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton looks more inevitable as each day goes by.

It should hardly be necessary to point out that this is an extremely important election for those of us who are concerned about sustainability. Although the Clean Air Act and Endangered Species Act were championed by Republicans, most of us realize that today's Republican party is a far cry from what it was in the 1970s.

The most distinctive characteristic of the current GOP is its near-total abandonment of respect for science and scientific inquiry. Climate change is the most egregious case, with creepy James Imhofe leading the Senate committte with the greatest power to influence American climate policy. Imhofe is among those who claim climate change is an organized scientific hoax. (He obviously has little acquaintance with actual scientists, who are less easily herded than cats.) No surprise that he represents a state where fossil fuels fuel the economy.

And this is the problem to which I have previously alluded. Taking your own bags to the grocery and recycling your aluminum cans will not save our planet. The real problems are far more fundamental, and are grounded in our resistance to adopt new ways of doing things. It has certainly not helped that vested financial interests have done everything possible to thwart environmental activists, even as many large corporations spend money to preserve wildlife habitat, promote ecological research, and so forth. All the while, fracking wells continue to sprout, research on battery technology limps along with a few hundred millions in private capital, the Antarctic ice sheet continues to melt, and species continue to slip toward extinction at  rate unprecedented across geologic time.

My point is not that we should stop recycling or taking our own bags to the grocery. Rather, we must not allow the "feel good" aspect of these actions to blind us to the real problems: our overconsumption of fossil fuels, our seeming indifference to obvious and growing ecological problems, and the unfortunate willingness on the part of too many Americans to reject the advice of our best scientific minds. And all of this, most unfortunately, is encouraged on a daily basis by conservative politicians and the right wing echo chamber that now passes for "news media."

It is going to be a long, hot summer.

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