10/19/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Let's put a Saddam Mustache on Climate Change

Calling all graphic designers, artists, Banksy, anyone! We need to Photoshop Saddam Hussein's mustache onto climate change. It's the only thing that will motivate people to action on climate change. Most people think climate change is an interesting topic for a seminar or lecture, not an ongoing worldwide emergency, and we need some sort of visual equivalent of yelling "fire" in a crowded theater. But, you know, more tactful. The old photo of a polar bear was effective on the 3% of us who like furry critters, but the other 97% seems to be distracted by American Idol or whatever it is that other Americans do while I sit at my computer worrying about climate change.

See, when it came to invading Iraq in 2003, I just don't recall Bush having to compromise very much. Maybe I'm naïve, but I didn't see him out "buying" votes from budget-conscious Blue Dogs. I don't remember any cost-benefit analysis comparing the pros and cons of invading Iraq or any pesky budget deficits getting in the way. I don't think Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld had to negotiate their war plans, like saying, "OK, we wanted a full invasion, but we'll scale it back so we can get the votes we need." They didn't have to cater to that one grumpy committee chair from some barely populated mid-western state. I do remember being denigrated as unpatriotic and wimpy when I was out at the anti-war protest wearing a Darth Vader helmet with my "No War for Oil" sign. To this day, I don't recall hearing much discussion about reducing the military budget so that we can ensure health care for 40 million Americans, let alone preserve the planet for future generations. I'm not saying we should stop defending our nation, but I find it surprising how different the political discourse was around invading Iraq in 2003 from today's political discourse around climate change.

And why? Perhaps there was something about Saddam Hussein's mustache that stirred the American soul. Maybe it reminded people of Hitler and Stalin, or maybe it was just so foreign looking, so un-American, that it made us want to go over there, and shave it right off! (Somebody will have to confirm this with Sarah Palin, since she seems to be the arbiter of "true" Americanism.)

I admit that the country has gained some awareness of climate change in the 4 years since "An Inconvenient Truth" and Hurricane Katrina, but we've also continued to emit a lot of greenhouse gases. The good folks at are trying to convince Americans that we don't have 20 years to ponder our options about what to do about climate change. The earth's atmosphere is already at 387 parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide equivalent in the atmosphere, and climbing, and the safe level is back at 350 ppm. We don't have the luxury of waiting for China and India to get rich enough to take action before us, and really, that's just a cop out anyway. We're Americans, we're world leaders, we take bold action, right? (Yee haw?) But maybe we need some motivation, like tacking an evil-looking mustache onto a melting glacier.