Friday, September 19, 2014

We all breathe the same air

While it's almost impossible today to think of a major topic of discussion which has a clear solutions that everyone can agree upon, there are a few issues which are so immediate, so pressing, that if we don't find a substantive answer soon, the consequences are not only dire, but potentially irreversible. One such issue is the current climate disaster, which poses a threat to people living in every corner of the globe. Environmental issues are not limited to the glittering cities, impoverished slums or hidden hinterlands - what happens in one place invariably impacts the lives of people living in another.

As much as some people may want to deny the danger of climate change, whether out of ignorance, laziness or greed, I think that for any thinking person to deny the danger is both morally reprehensible and a tad ridiculous. Frankly, the greed factor aside, I don't really understand how environmental protection and limiting the long-term negative impact we have on our natural environment leads to such contentious arguments.

I have yet to meet a person who doesn't need clean air, water and food to live.

Given this, one could be forgiven for thinking the topic of the environment would be a natural place for all people, regardless of ideological bent, political affiliation or religious persuasion, to meet.

There is some precedence for moments of profound leadership and unity around environmental issues. I was reminded of this today as I listened to the PRI program Science Friday in my car. During the show one of the guests pointed out that President Nixon had played a role in the passage of several important environmental initiatives, including his creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Natural Resrouces. Even Nixon, whom I would hardly hold up as an exemplar champion of civil society, realized that the American public wasn't so keen to breathe polluted air.

So on the face of it, one would think that the environment should easily be a clear-cut bipartisan issue. But it isn't - either because the fossil fuel industry has found a few too many friends among Republicans, or because democrats don't see this issue as useful for fundraising, or for other selfish reasons. But before I get too cynical, I do think that with a big enough demonstration of support by citizens, that adressing climate change could become more important in the minds of political leaders. For this reason, I was excited to see media reports about a major rally to draw attention to this issue, called The People's March Against Climate Change, this coming Sunday in New York City. The rally is being held close to a planned UN summit on the same topic, and I'm hopeful that this demonstration of support will spur action not just on DC, but in state capitals as well.

At the end of the day, I suspect that I'm not the only one who doesn't care if it's Democrats or Republicans, grassroots organizers or big business, which finally addresses this problem. Like billions of other people on this planet I'd really just like clean air to breathe, clean water to drink, and if we can leave a few trees standing, that would be nice too.

Copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2014.

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