The deafening silence we hear from the presidential and congressional campaigns must mean that climate change has been solved in the last four years! This is exciting news from our politicians for the planet, for humans, and for the natural environment!
The only problem with this political campaign silence is that we just completed the hottest year on record, experienced even more severe droughts and storms, and lost more time again to stop pouring clouds of carbon into the air. Four years ago, John McCain and Barack Obama added their voices to the chorus– even during the debates - that we needed a national strategy in the immediate future to move away from carbon-based fuels, towards sustainability, and in building partnerships between environmentalists and business people. To hear some talk, it would have been the equivalent of the national crusade to send a “man” to the moon. But why the silence this time around?
Three possible reasons:
- Political expediency – Climate change calls for deeper thought, real dialogue, cooperation in planning, and concrete action. The process is too complex to put on a bumper sticker because it doesn’t have a catchy solution, and raising the issue means taking a real stand and holding policy-makers accountable. Fabricators need not apply.
- Purchased silence – The enormous financial power of the extractive industries – oil, natural gas, coal, and nuclear – has added copious sums to the political process through campaign contributions and Super PACs. So what do you owe to those who have given you so much?
- Denial – This is not a happy topic and being an advocate for action on climate change is an invitation to becoming the skunk at the garden party. In her passionate writing about our emotional health, Joanna Macy tells us in her article called Environmental Despair about our need to deny the truth in order to live our dual lives of daily reality and future reality. Google the article if you want to know how to keep on working in spite of the odds.
All the reasons involve each voter. How many of us have asked those who are running about their thoughts on climate change and how they would act to save the planet? How many of us have asked politicians about where their campaign contributions come from and how much is from the carbon and extractive industries? And finally, how many of us have decided to look the other way for now because the truth is just too hard to face because we have so many other issues to solve?
This is not about heaping guilt on voters, but about calling us to be responsible citizens and good stewards of the earth for now and for the future. Elected officials represent the hopes and values of our collective community and for those yet unborn. Hold the politicans accountable. Don’t let them off the hook. Demand real answers to serious questions and don’t let them change the subject. We can’t wait another four years to get started on climate change.