November 7, 2012

Perfect Storm: Why the most important issue in this mess of an election, climate change, was ignored

President Obama meets Governer Chris Christie of New Jersey to survey storm damage.

President Obama meets Governer Chris Christie of New Jersey to survey storm damage.

By Lee Cole–

This election has been, in more ways than one, a perfect storm – a vast, churning maelstrom of confusion, lies, warring ideologies and massive sums of money.  It will undoubtedly leave in its wake an electoral mess of epic proportions and its reverberations will affect not just our generation, but generations to come.  The campaign season effectively ended with the arrival of Hurricane Sandy, but like so many other aspects of this campaign and the past year in general, it only left me feeling once more like I was in the middle of some kind of absurd, cosmic joke.  Five hundred years of industrialization, expanding urban sprawl and the burning of fossil fuels is now culminating in scientifically verified climate change and storms of terrifying, freakish proportion like Sandy, and the response from some conservatives – the conservatives that would have Mitt Romney become the next president – is that it was caused by gay people.  I was, and am still, at a loss for words.

Because the Cardinal comes out on Tuesdays, and in this case, Election Day, it puts serious limitations on a writer covering the election.  I can’t see into the future, and as much as I would like it, neither can Nate Silver nor any of the other pollsters and statisticians who have been perpetuating this state of pre-election day, ratings-boosting anxiety now for months, years even.  If the election is decided on Election Day, I would be shocked.  Many are already expecting recounts, like those conducted in 2000, except on an even greater scale.  The wealthiest, most powerful people in the world are investing money on both sides, and thanks to Citizen’s United, the sums are larger than they’ve ever been and the sources are usually undisclosed.  Underlying all of this is the ridiculous notion that we still live in something akin to a democracy.

The fight we’re having today, and the fight that we’ve been having since our founding, has been over our idea of what America is.  On the one hand, there are those who think that America is a Christian nation, and that the norm is to be white, of European descent, heterosexual and of the belief that Jesus Christ was a capitalist, who would have approved of someone like Mitt Romney or George W. Bush.  This sector of the population also tends to favor small government when that means they get to legislate morality at the state or local level, but favor big government when it means investing in war and law enforcement, whether it’s in state apparatuses, like the DEA, our prison system and police organizations, conducting the subtle, nearly invisible war against minorities and the impoverished or in the machinations of our military-industrial complex, conducting acts of overt violence in faraway places, broadcast through our television screens and sterilized by the likes Wolf Blitzer and Shepard Smith.

The other, less vocal, sector of the population believes that America is something else entirely.  They believe that America is a place for people of all faiths and all ethnic and racial backgrounds.  They believe it is a place where freedom of speech and a fundamental right to privacy are paramount.  They favor small government when it comes to the rights of individuals, and women in particular, to govern their own bodies, but favor big government when it comes to investing in technology, education and healthcare.

It should be clear which sector’s policies are more beneficial and more likely to result in long-term success for America as a nation.  Parties have shifted and switched ideologies so many times since our founding that labeling either viewpoint historically is difficult, but looking at our current situation, the Democratic Party clearly represents the latter sector.

Neither viewpoint is complete, however.  There is something forgotten, something we’ve lost as a people and as a nation which must be regained for us to continue on.  We’ve lost our connection to the land itself – to the earth and what grows from it and is nurtured by it.  We’ve forgotten that there is an America that exists separate from our ideas and our politics.

Both candidates remained silent for most of the campaign about the environment and climate change.  At least Barack Obama believes climate change is happening and has us moving in the right direction.  Mayor Bloomberg cited climate change as one of his reasons for endorsing President Obama, in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.  But there is a disconnect between climate scientists and those in political office, and even our leaders who believe climate change is a real problem approach it with naivete.  What is required is a total, drastic shift in the way we live our lives.  We have to stop burning fossil fuels and shipping food from thousands of miles away.  We have to stop using materials from the earth in an unsustainable way.

It’s not a popular issue, but the environment has to become a part of our election process.  We cannot afford to elect someone like Mitt Romney, who doesn’t believe in climate change and who will do everything possible to give oil and coal companies government subsidies.

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