The other day a woman came up to me and asked, “How do you have hope for the environment with a President like this?” It’s an interesting question and worth an answer.

The key reason I have hope that we will get through this and on to a better day, is by looking at how far we have come. In my life of 65 years, I have personally watched a polluted river burn in Ohio, smelled the steel mills of south Chicago spewing massive amounts of toxic pollution into the air, ran with all the other children behind DDT smoggers in our neighborhood on a regular basis every summer, and witnessed the pollution of Los Angeles at its worse. There was no organic food movement when I was a child. No one imagined that cars could run on battery power.

Since then, the country, with help from both the old Republican Party and Democrats, has put  into action thousands of laws to protect us, our children, our food, air and water. The laws are so ingrained that many of the voters who supported Donald Trump and his minions in the current incarnation of the Republican party, have forgotten just why the laws are there. That we have huge numbers of eagles in our area is because of public pressure, and science research recognizing the dangers of DDT and Congress passing a law that a President signed banning its use in the U.S.

The splitting of news media into real news (now labeled fake news by Trump) and a propaganda machine called Fox News,  which has through clever programming become one of the most watched news media in the country, has worked to dumb down those watching it and created a population who no longer understands what we have gained by the laws that it rails against.  This was by intent. As documented in numerous news reporting a small cadre of people  started working on the program to take control of America back in the 1970s. They were reactionary to the events happening in the 60s. They have all but succeeded in their goals, but whether the population will continue to support them remains to be seen.

As Trump and his administration go about tearing down the laws and even the notion of using science to make decisions, those inside those institutions are not willingly going along with the destruction. Outside the organizations, there is a coordinated effort to take the Trump administration to court over these blatant attacks on our resources. We will lose some of these battles to be sure. But when it’s all over, I have no doubt that future administrations will come along and rebuild these laws.

When looking at these laws, it is undoubtedly true they often are laws that were built and added onto over the decades since the 1970s, and probably can be improved. A rewriting of them by future administrations and Congresses can be hoped to improve on them,  not destroy them.

The bigger concern is the lack of desire to even admit to global warming and do anything about it by Trump. As many of the world’s leading climate scientists said last week, we have not much time left to avoid global catastrophe. Over the last decade we witnessed from afar the creation of a global class of climate refugees.  This year, we are witnessing the creation of a class of climate refugees here in the U.S. As we have seen in the Southeast U.S. just this last two months, and the forests of Northern California this summer and last summer, along with numerous smaller incidents that don’t make “ink”  in the news. The poor along the Gulf Coast of Florida, the backwaters of South and North Carolina, the areas around Redding and Santa Rosa California, and elsewhere are facing a horrendous future as they watch their entire homes and places of work blown to bits or burned to ash. Given that it has been reported by Money magazine and other real news sources that 6 in 10 Americans don’t have $500 savings, it points to an unrecoverable situation for those who are affected by global warming.

While each of us can do some small thing to help, like use less fossil fuels or install solar panels, this looming global catastrophe is waiting on leadership from the U.S. to move towards a true solution. Our country is the largest global polluter closely followed by China and India. We have to lead in order to really change anything. Luckily, the economics of solar have created a financial incentive that even Trump can’t lie his way around. Coal is doomed by the costs of solar. It’s happening already. And states such as ours are taking the initiative because of popular demand, to move towards sustainable energy sources. But there is a huge amount of work yet to be done.

Once we were challenged by a true leader, President Kennedy, and supported in that challenge by President Johnson and Republican President Nixon, to put a man on the moon in 10 years. We did it. Out of that effort, came huge benefits to our society and to the rest of the planet. When the next true leader comes along, it will be up to us to get ourselves out from under the rule of fossil fuels to a solar and wind powered future. It will not be easy. It will disrupt numerous industries and jobs (just ask the coal miners in Kentucky).  But the outcome will eventually create a better world. Unfortunately, in the meantime we have to protect ourselves from the planet doing what it is programmed to do with a rise in greenhouse gasses, absorbing the heat in the oceans, which fuels hurricanes and creates ocean acidification, among other problematic scenarios.

My hope is in  two things that humans have had in their favor over the last 100,000 or more years,  ingenuity and tools. We have created our way out of so many seemingly insurmountable problems, from bacteria caused illnesses with penicillin to  sewer, light and transportation systems to support cities of tens of millions of people. I trust in our ability to find a way through the next hundred years.  A good place to start is to vote in politicians who believe in science and recognize the problem for what it is. That starts next week. The decision is yours to make.




3 Responses

  1. Thank you Al.
    Another thing we have going for us as humans is we are social creatures. Some people have learned that when things seem impossible for us (for me the individual person), the way to keep going in the face of that impossibility is to focus on helping someone else.
    Thank you!

  2. I’m more pessimistic, Al. Way more pessimistic.

    Since I was in high school in the ’60s, vertebrate wildlife globally has been cut more than in half. The Sixth Great Extinction is actually accelerating. In terms of biomass, most mammals on the planet are either people or livestock. Most birds on the planet are poultry.

    The oceans are dying and will soon have more plastic trash than fish.

    Pesticide production and use is growing faster than bees are dying.

    The alarming climate report just out by the IPCC is almost criminally optimistic. It assumes that we won’t reach a tipping point where the climate is pushed beyond our control. Those tipping points are already in motion.

    And we have a government — Congress, President and Supreme Court — that considers climate change a hoax and is actively pushing policies that make climate change worse. Polluting industries control all our federal regulatory agencies.

    The rules of society have been changed so that the nation’s wealth is increasingly concentrated in the hands of the few, along with the resultant political power.

    The media are increasingly impotent or blatantly right-wing propaganda — thus creating the Republican base, which is the most ignorant, aggressive and misinformed political base in the nation. Unfortunately, that base — given the undemocratic nature of our government — has outsized power.

    Most people vote for Democrats; most political offices go to Republicans.

    It’s worse than we think. Fight back or die.

    • Thanks for taking the time to comment, Josie. I don’t dispute your points at all. For me, it comes back to a couple of wise men, one I met and one I didn’t, and the notion of ‘framework’ for one’s point of view.

      Martin Luther King could have framed his point of view as hopeless. I never met him, but he was very active in my teens. He led a march into Cicero, one of the most corrupt and racist neighborhoods at the time in Chicago. Chicago politics and Cicero seemed utterly hopeless. Cicero was not far from where we lived, and my father worked at the racetrack there. My aunt worked in the GE lightbulb factory there. King’s march was a gutsy move that highlighted the racism and showed many of us that were ignorant of it, just how bad it was. He changed points of view. After watching racists spit on him and others while the police stood by, one could not help but side with King and his marchers. And we as a nation are still struggling with the vestiges of racism now, but for many African Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans life is better than it was then. For many, it’s not, and for some it never will be because they, like King, were killed by racism. But progress has been made.

      The other man was someone who taught me about the notion of frameworks in our point of view and about how, by reframing your reference you can also change many outcomes. I am choosing to frame this problem we are facing in a way that gives hope to people. Certainly for someone living in Germany in the spring of 1939 it probably could have felt hopeless, and if they were killed in the catastrophe of war, it was the end. But what has come out of that catastrophe has been a better 70 years for most of the survivors and their children. Same as with the fall of Communism and the outcome for millions in Poland, Eastern Germany etc. Obviously, the future on both these fronts is not assured to remain the same.

      As we stand here at the beginning of a new age of global warming, I am not trying to be a Pollyanna about the future. There were people in the last month who are no longer living, some of whom no doubt watched Fox News and voted for Trump, buying his and Fox’s BS that global warming was a hoax. They were victims of our collective inaction and lack of leadership. They are gone partially because of a man who frames the world’s scientists as liars and frauds, in order to maintain his prestige, power and lack of intellect. He’s not alone in doing that.

      The frame in which we view these can be focused to either see it as hopeless or with hope. Both are figments of our imagination.

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