I will start off this post by stating first, and foremost, that I do not 100% align myself with any political party. There are things I agree with on both sides of the fence, and parties change over time. In each election, I try to research and take an issues-based stance. Moreover, I do not in any way mean to imply that the only corrupt, imbecilic, ignorant, or short-sighted politicians are on one side or the other. Quite frankly, I grew up in a suburb of Washington, D.C. and typically regard politicians as being one step above football cheerleaders and one step below the over-concussed football players themselves in terms of their overall intelligence, moral integrity, and usefulness to society. It’s just how we’re raised in this neck of the woods. So, take comfort in the fact that I probably wasn’t going to be nice towards these guys no matter what.
That said, taking stock of the crop of Presidential hopefuls the GOP raised this year is a particularly depressing experience. Across the board, GOP candidates aren’t just stating that the environment isn’t a priority. They are openly anti-environment, calling environmental regulations “immoral” and stating that “EPA is waging a war on America.” They deny man’s responsibility for climate change, and support expanded drilling for oil and natural gas, and propose decreased funding and enforcement of environmental measures that protect our air, water, and public health. Sierra club has put together a series of videos summarizing these quotes, which placed side-by-side, would be hilarious if they weren’t disturbingly real.
Anti-environmental maneuvering within the Republican Party is driven by ensuring the interests of corporations and the wealthiest class of Americans, with little concern for ensuring the country’s long term future. I’m not saying that everyone has to be a climate hawk, but the fact that a strong “anti-environmentalist” movement has appeared in this country is pretty upsetting. Everyone in America is entitled to their own opinion, because we live in a democracy. However, when those opinions are based on emotion, self-interest, and a misunderstanding of basic facts, it becomes tough to swallow. When candidates start to just straight-up invent their own facts….that’s when I lose my cool.
And when I get angry, I typically throw things, curse in German (I don’t speak German, but it’s always sounded kind of angry to me, so I figure if I’m going to fake curse in another language it’s a good option.) Then I write. The reasons why Republican candidates have such a negative view of environmental issues vary slightly from candidate to candidate, but I’d like to address each of the most common justifications for these viewpoints separately. Because this post got a little long, I’m going to divide it up into four (okay, so a little long was an understatement.) Today we’ll attack #1, and then, we’ll go from there.
Viewpoint #1: Climate Change is either not occurring or is not caused by human activity. Many GOP candidates this year hold that (1) the scientific evidence regarding climate change is inconclusive; (2) climate change isn’t actually happening, or (3) climate change is occurring, but it’s not because of anthropogenic sources of greenhouse gases.
Held By: Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Hunstman, Gingrich, and Bachmann (who, although she dropped out, is still planning to be a thorn in our side in Congress).
What’s Disturbing About This: A 2000 video of Gingrich shows him sitting on a couch with Nancy Pelosi and talking about how climate change is a critical issue. (NO, I’m not even kidding.) Mitt Romney was, as recently as July, stating that he trusted the scientific community that man-made greenhouse gases contribute to climate change. Of course, this changed as soon as it wasn’t to his advantage politically. Hunstman also flip-flopped on the issue.
Why it’s hogwash: Of course the Earth goes through cycles. Mass extinctions and catastrophes are so much a part of the history of the Earth that I took an entire course on them at Princeton (I am a geologist, after all…). Which should also tell you something about how well studied manyof these phenomena are – yes, they’re certainly complex, but that doesn’t mean that climate scientists are making things up.
What bugs me about this, though, is that Republican candidates only seem willing to trust the experts when it’s in their own best interest. I’m not sure when it happened, but somewhere along the way; the Republican party aligned itself with a community that seems staunchly anti-science. This is disturbing in and of itself. I’d almost rather see a candidate who has the guts to say, “Hey, I think the experts know what they’re talking about, but I just don’t care” than watch the Michelle Bachmann’s of the world claim that the scientific community (of the ENTIRE WORLD) is propagating a massive hoax. (Side note: I would be really impressed if that actually happened, because seriously, getting that many top-notch scientists to agree on something as huge as climate change would probably require hell freeze over, rendering climate change a moot point.)
But if you’re not going to accept the science (hey, some people still don’t accept the science behind evolution, and that’s been around much longer), maybe you can at least think about what to do despite that uncertainty. Even if you don’t accept the science as 100% solid….that doesn’t mean that we get to do nothing.
You see, what I really don’t understand is the following: we know fossil fuels are bad for us in myriad ways. The emissions have negative impacts on the environment and public health. The extraction of fossil fuels is dangerous, messy, and often leads to catastrophic results for human life and natural resources. They’re not renewable, and have led to social and economic injustice, political instability, around the world since the oil boom started. Fossil fuels are finite in quantity, and when we run out, we cannot generate more. So why are we still insisting on using them? There are so many reasons to move beyond this technology, it’s difficult for me to fathom why we are still clinging to them. It’s as though we’re twelve feet from a shoreline but so scared to swim that we won’t let go of our tiny little leaky life preserver. And the ones telling us to stay put are the oil and gas companies who stand to gain millions in profit by our not moving.
The argument that new energy technologies cannot compete on the market or deliver the energy we require is equally hogwash. Innovation is born of challenge, and Americans have shown time and time again that we have the capacity to rise to a challenge and adapt ourselves when it becomes necessary. Now is the time to wake up and stop being too scared and too snowed by the disinformation campaigns of corporations protecting their own interests to move forward.
Stay tuned for episodes 2, 3, and 4 of this post. We’ll talk about the Constitutional basis for environmental laws, the economy, and get back to our almighty question, “why so green?” Until then, happy Wednesday, and hope you have a delicious spinach burrito waiting for you for lunch.