Saturday, September 08, 2012
The Silence on Ecology
[Letter to E.J. Dionne, care of the Brookings Institution]
Dear Mr. Dionne,
Yesterday you were on NPR alongside David Brooks offering your observations about the Democratic National Convention last week. One remark you made regarding President Obama's speech was sadly revealing.
You noted that the president mentioned climate change in his speech, and how rare this was since this had been a "dead issue," to use your phrase, since the mid-terms. I would submit that it is the latter point, the silence on ecology, that is astonishing.
If 75% of the United States were on fire, would we grow tired of talking about it? Would reporters stop asking about the causes of the fire, containment, emergency relief, the response of fire teams, and the fire's consequences? If 75% of the United States were on fire, would we get sick of arguing about it and "move on," ceding the issue to those who spread misinformation about the fire and deny that it is a problem?
Climate change is not some pet cause. It is one aspect of a very serious and quite authentic crisis requiring immediate and long belated attention at a multi-lateral government level, as well as a domestic policy level. The realistic discussion of ecology and human civilization is no longer about averting a catastrophe; we can only hope for a fact-based discussion of how to contain the consequences and prepare for a new era of environmental limits.
Are we incapable of this, in your view? Is it not time to treat this seriously, as we watch crucial glaciers melt away, sea levels rise and temperatures change? As the U.N. now grapples with the question of environmental refugees, forced to move from land that can no longer sustain them? As oil and coal become more difficult and expensive to produce, and no sustainable alternative infrastructure yet exists?
If we are capable, what moves our elected officers toward having this conversation?