There were several developments last week on the climate front that left me deeply disheartened and angry. As a broadcast news journalist turned green radio activist, I am dismayed by these ominous tidings. As a mother, I am outraged, and you should be too.
Whether or not you have a child, grandchild, nieces or nephews in this world, you should know there is an all-out war underway to harm their future and the future of all life on the planet. If that sounds apocalyptic, well, it is, according to James Hansen, NASA's top climate scientist. Dr. Hansen recently wrote a gripping op-ed piece about the Keystone pipeline signaling "game over" for our climate. If presidential approval is given to allow oil to be extracted from Canadian tar sands and piped down to Texas oil refineries, the energy intensive extraction process will release enough greenhouse gases into the atmosphere to help move us into the danger zone. As you might guess, Hansen means "game over" not in any sports context but in terms of the ultimate American challenge: Will we do what is necessary to avert climactic disaster for generations to come? This reality is unfolding now but the drama will not be broadcast on any station near you: Our planet's fate is a little TOO real for prime time.
Those of us watching the planet's ecological emergencies grow exponentially more serious -- and working to help change our course -- are accustomed to this type of daily doomsday commentary from the experts. We only wish it were not true, but we know better. If you've been living under a rock, somehow missing reports of all the record weather events -- and ensuing death, damage and destruction -- you should start subscribing to Climate Progress or The Daily Climate and you too, will soon wake up and smell the carbon.
The events that sparked the ire of many are so disgusting and discouraging as to give me pause in committing to this work of eco-consciousness raising. It is now painfully clear that our biggest obstacle is not just a matter of informing a distracted multitasking public about our environmental urgencies -- a daunting enough challenge since the clock is ticking. A far darker monster has raised its ugly head and it's growing more legs everyday. First the ultraconservative Heartland Institute posted a Chicago billboard equating climate change believers with extremists like Unabomber Ted Kaczynski. It was taken down after an outpouring of outrage, but that trial balloon was enough to burst my bubble in not believing fossil fuel funded deniers were that evil -- misguided, yes, but evil no. Actually, unequivocally, yes, given what happened later in the week.
As seeming proof of the effectiveness of the lobbyist's disinformation campaigns, on Tuesday came word from Stanford researcher, Jon Krosnick, Ph.D., that public support for curbing climate change has slipped significantly in the past two years, particularly among Republicans. Support for various steps to cut greenhouse gas emissions has dropped an average of ten percentage points since 2010 from 72 percent to 62 percent, according to Krosnick, who notes that most of the 62 percent "hate the idea of consumer taxes to do it." If that sounds like public opinion influenced by radically "conservative" politicians, libertarians and right wing media, you guessed... right. While nobody loves to pay taxes, given the scope of the planetary emergency posed by climate extremes, it will take attacking the problem on all fronts. It must include voting for eco-savvy leadership to help Americans understand the need for all of us to contribute to the solution, and not just monetarily. Why not start diverting a fraction of the millions going to military purposes to address the war on warming? Simply put, not doing so will doom us, and mostly our offspring.
But back to the research and on to the real outrage. As if it's not disturbing enough that during a period of unprecedented changes in the atmosphere, oceans and the world's disappearing rainforests, public opinion has gone in exactly the wrong direction (and for that you can thank the DIC, or "Denial Industrial Complex," according to Joe Romm of Climate Progress). While the right wing controls 95 percent of talk radio and shows on the Fox network continue to dismiss climate change as a hoax, too many busy Americans are not tuning in to their environment, our life support system. That trend - just as Mother Nature appears to be trying to tell us something -- is reason enough to despair, for those of us who know what it portends. However, the other development is the one that put this mother over the top.
On Tuesday the Guardian reported that "a network of ultra-conservative groups is ramping up an offensive on multiple fronts to turn the American public against wind farms and Barack Obama's energy agenda." The article goes on to report that "a number of right wing organizations, including Americans for Prosperity, which is funded by the billionaire Koch brothers, are attacking Obama for his support of solar and wind power. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which also has financial links to the Kochs, has drafted bills to overturn state laws promoting wind energy." There is more, including mention of a new loose coalition of fossil fuel industry interests linked to -- you guessed it -- the Koch brothers.
There are no words for just how outrageous, sinister, greedy and evil these efforts and people are -- proof positive they will stop at nothing to destroy the future to protect their own short term interests (to hear what happened when we found words to describe this atrocity, and hear from Peter Kelley of the American Wind Energy Association, check out this week's show at thegreenfront.com).
And as if the cognitive dissonance was not making my head scream enough, to put a point on all this madness, Friday came word that Saudi Arabia is unveiling a $100 billion plan to make solar "a driver for domestic energy for years to come." So even the world's largest producer of oil understands the value of developing renewable energy (while America's fossil fools declare war on it). This coming a few months after Saudi Arabia's oil minister called global warming "among humanity's most pressing concerns." It looks as though we'll continue to be energy dependent on Saudi Arabia in the future. While they bask in the sunshine they'll be happy to sell us their oil, thereby increasing our debt and further decreasing our chances of a stable ecology and robust economy.
On the positive side, Thursday brought good news from Progressive Democrats Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Keith Ellison (D-MN). They unveiled a bill to end subsidies to the oil, coal and natural gas industries. The bad news is that the bill reportedly doesn't stand a chance in hell of passing.
So, on this Mother's Day, falling as always just weeks after Earth Day, I ask all of you mothers (and others) out there, just how much do you love your kids? What about your country and planet? Enough to stand up and let your voices be heard, to take a break from the daily activities to take some action? I, for one, am "steamed" enough to consider launching a Green Tea Party to raise the volume on the outrage more Americans would feel if they truly understood what was at stake. While Tea Partiers -- all of whom have proudly declared that climate change is not a problem -- were angry about high taxes, we should be angry about high (greenhouse) gases! Why?
Because -- like it or not, America -- we are in hot water and before we reach the boiling point, we should 'steep' ourselves in science, infuse ourselves with information, and together come up with a solution that will ensure we do not damn our children, and theirs, to a future too hot to handle.
Happy Mothers Day and if you want to make my day, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
and tell me "you are in" on a Green Tea Party. And while you're at your computer, please write your representative and tell them to start showing some love for Mother Nature, or leave it.
Follow Betsy Rosenberg on Twitter: www.twitter.com/greenfront