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Politics as If the Planet Mattered

Don’t You Want to Tell Your Grandchildren You Voted Against Climate Change?

by BART GRUZALSKI

Unless you are a Climate Change denier, you know we are crossing thresholds quickly.  Hurricane Sandy was a last minute warning.  A friend wrote to me that Hurricane Sandy took the elections off the media, but I’m inclined to think that Hurricane Sandy was a last minute wake-up call and is extremely relevant to Tuesday’s election.

Supposedly this election’s outcome is “razor-thin.” That’s a great way to make you feel obligated to vote for one of the Tweedles—either for dee or for dum.  “Razor thin” is persuasive media gimmickry.  There’s nothing razor thin about this election. The Duopoly has long had this election gift-wrapped for the 1% unless a majority of us pull off our blinders in the next 24 hours and vote for the future of our country and our grandchildren.

Chis Hedges gives Climite Change as the reason we need to take off the blinders before we vote: “The November election is not a battle between Republicans and Democrats. It is not a battle between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. It is a battle between the corporate state and us. And if we do not immediately engage in this battle we are finished, as climate scientists have made clear.” This is why he will vote for Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate.

There are other pressing reasons to give up on the corporate Duopoly candidates.  These reasons do not have the unremitting certainty of ecological  processes, but they are urgent: we need to abandon this One Party election between Obomney and Romobama in order to take back our democracy from the 1%;  we need to regain control of our government since even Obama is decimating our civil liberties as he strives for the power to jail Americans indefinitely without trial; our wars against terrorism only create hatred, enemies, and bankrupt our nation morally and financially. The list is longer but if you haven’t been persuaded, there’s no point in going on.

The only candidates running for president who takes into consideration the health of our democracy, our civil liberties, the counterproductive war on terrorism, and Climate Change are Jill Stein and Rocky Anderson.  Since Jill Stein is in a better position to win more of the popular vote (she is, and Anderson isn’t, on the California ballot), I will focus on her.  Stein wants to re-build our economy, create 25 million jobs, and all as part of a New Green Deal.  She wants this nation to leap to the front rank with the front runners who are developing their economies around the realization that climate-friendly economies are the wave the future: China stands out as perhaps the leader.  As Rocky Anderson pointed out in the extended debate on Democracy Now!, when he visited China he discovered that Chinese city mayors were following orders to cut their use of carbon-based energy. China now produces over half the solar panels in the world, and over half of the wind turbines. China is ahead of the U.S. in working to lower greenhouse gas emissions. Anderson accused Obama of “sitting on his hands” and not confronting climate change. Jill Stein added that the Obama administration obstructed the climate accords in South Africa. She pointed out that since the climate emergencies we are currently experiencing are the result of only one degree centigrade increase in temperature, and much greater temperatures are forecast.

As citizens and as a nation, we have left this go much too long.  Whatever we do, Climate Change will worsen in the near future.  There is a multi-year time lag between pumping carbon and methane into the atmosphere and the effects on temperature.  We are going to see bigger tornadoes, worse droughts, bigger forest fires, and more hurricanes-of-the-century.  We will feel the effects in our pocket books and on the food shelves in grocery stores.  There will be plenty of gasoline.  What will come to be in short supply is arable land, reliable and affordable sources of food.

We have seen this ecological crisis coming for years.  Even if you were not convinced by the scientific consensus, the precautionary principle should have driven you into taking Climate Change very seriously and demanding that any candidate for president do the same.

We are now beyond the need for the crutch of the precautionary principle.  We know we are facing ecological breakdowns that will affect our grandchildren.  The planet will be fine.  For the planet, this will be just another cycle, like the changes that caused the dinosaurs to become extent.  From the perspective of us humans, it’s not just another cycle.  Many large animals will not survive this ecological cycle: elephants, polar bears, gorillas, and, possibly, homo sapiens (a bit arrogant, the “sapiens” part, but that’s what we call ourselves: “wise”).

Our grandchildren will know that we knew ecological crises were coming.  They may well learn of this election: two corporate business-as-usual Tweedles versus a Green Candidate whose popular vote count would make a difference.  Our grandchildren will wonder, given that we saw this coming, what did we do about it?  Did we continue living our lives “business-as-usual”?  Did we begin taking these foreseeable ecological crises into account in our actions?    They will ask us: “You saw this coming, what did you do?”  How we vote in this election will be part of our answer.

Bart Gruzalski a professor emeritus of philosophy from Northeastern University.  He co-edited Value Conflicts in Health Care Delivery and published On The Buddha, as well as On Gandhi.