New Year, New Chances to Do Things Better

Well, here we are, limping into 2022 after yet another tough year of dealing with the COVID pandemic and the vast fallout to our society it has engendered. We’ve lost far too many of our fellow citizens who will not have the opportunity to make any choices in the coming year. But for those of us who have so far survived the slings and arrows of misfortune, it’s a time to think about how we can realistically deal with the array of challenges facing us— and our continuously bickering politicians — to hopefully do things better in the future.

The two major and unavoidable issues facing us right now are the on-going pandemic and the quickly worsening crisis of climate change — or more accurately, global baking — and the panoply of extreme weather events it is causing.

As far as the pandemic goes, the good news is we know how to deal with the virus and its current delta and omicron variants. Our vaccines are effective at reducing both fatalities and hospitalizations — but only if they’re used. There’s reason to believe, after far too long and far too many tragedies, that the tide is turning on the anti-vax, anti-mask crowd. Even the former guy is saying get vaxxed. And although his delusional “followers” booed him for that, perhaps he has finally realized you can’t win elections if all your voters are sick or dead.

As far as climate change goes, if anyone still feels like arguing about that, consider that last week Kodiak, Alaska, hit 67 degrees, which made the shortest days of the year in the far, dark north warmer than it was on the same day in Southern California.

Many are doing their part to reduce their global warming gas emissions, but a problem of the magnitude of global climate change will not be solved by individuals. It will take real action by our politicians — and that doesn’t mean promising us we’re going to hit some miraculous net zero emissions three or four decades from now. As we’ve learned from our efforts to regulate a host of other pollutants via the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act, it’s far too easy for politicians to kick the can down the road to avoid any real or imagined diminution of their future election chances.

Nope, if we’re going to somehow get out of this particular jam, it’s going to take immediate — and perhaps drastic — actions now. And while politicians regularly dodge doing what’s necessary while hiding behind the excuse of causing “hardship” on the populace, there’s certainly one area from which we could immediately receive results. That would be pulling in our horns from the massive emissions generated every day by our military.

Besides the enormous greenhouse gas reductions, we’d free up hundreds of billions of dollars that could be immediately invested in renewable, non-polluting energy. If anyone doubts that, simply consider the outrageous truth that the U.S. currently spends more than China, India, Russia, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, Germany, France, Japan, South Korea, Italy, and Australia combined.

Finally, although it takes Congress to cut our excessive military spending, we as citizens can reject the on-going attempts by any number of self-serving politicians and public figures to “divide and conquer” by turning us against each other for largely imaginary reasons.

As Abraham Lincoln said in his Gettysburg Address: “We are a government of the people, by the people and for the people”— and it’s up to us to strive to make things better for all the people in the New Year.


George Ochenski is a columnist for the Daily Montanan, where this essay originally appeared.