Friday, September 07, 2012
What really matters
It's great that the president at least mentioned global climate change in his acceptance speech -- specifically, he said it is not a hoax. But that was about all he had to say about it, and as far as policy, he introduced nothing new, just his previously stated intentions to support development of sustainable energy while also supporting more fossil fuel extraction.
Naturally he focused on the issues, largely of self-interest, that are likely to win over persuadable voters, and that means more and better jobs, and you'll still get Medicare and Social Security when you're old. Fine, but that's not going to happen if, say, agricultural production collapses or major coastal cities end up under water, and wars over dwindling resources engulf the planet.
The very unpleasant fact is that climate change is happening faster than just about anybody predicted even a couple of years ago. The scientists who study the arctic are completely gobsmacked. It's starting to look more and more compelling that positive feedbacks are driving an accelerated rate of change and that we could very easily undergo an abrupt transition to a very different state, with unforeseeable consequences.
There are plenty of Cassandras out there, my little voice won't much matter. But I will add my two cents. We have entered a peculiar age of apathy. I grew up in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement and the Anti-War Movement and the energized, grassroots left that flourished around them. The Great Depression generated an immense wave of progressive activism that powerfully shaped the government response to the economic disaster.
We have just as much -- indeed, hard as it is to encompass, even more -- to be worried and angry about today. But the response of much of the broad public has been self-centered, tribal and divisive. Other than the very brief and apparently now entirely spent paroxysm of the Occupy movement, political activism has largely been limited to the feckless activities of blogging and tweeting and commenting on blogs. That's a fine thing to do, but it's only going to reach the people who already want to read what you have to say. We have got to find a way to build a real movement, and soon.