Climate change is one of the defining issues of my generation. The era that I'm growing up in faces a predicament that couldn't have been foreseen a matter of decades ago. As a planet, we can no longer definitively say whether our Earth will be able to nurture our own futures or sustain the lives of our children and grandchildren. It's a scary thought that our planet could be destroyed in just a few generations and it's a concept that too many conservatives shy away from.
Since I was in elementary school, I acknowledged that climate change was a real and present threat, but the notion that it could actually scar my neighborhood and affect the lives of those around me seemed like a very distant possibility until this week. My hometown of New York City was recently ravaged by an unprecedented weather event. Dubbed a "Frankenstorm," Hurricane Sandy ripped through the Northeastern corridor of the United States a few days ago. While I've watched many powerful storms on television from the comfort of my couch, I've always been thankful knowing that such an incident could never happen here. But it did.
Hurricane Sandy uprooted my belief that climate change would never hit me here and that such tragedies would always pass me by. This storm actually knocked on my doorstep and sent palpable shock waves through my belief system. I watched as family, friends and neighbors were all profoundly impacted by the storm -- so many people around me were disenfranchised and powerless. Post-apocalyptic imagery was draped over my computer screen and television set and at the end of the day, my conscience. Massive flooding drowned property and lives and good spirits right along with it. The city that never sleeps was stuck in an infernal darkness. The storm had literally hit home, right in my backyard.
Now as Election Day approaches, I have new criterion to evaluate the candidates. Climate change is a point of contention that demonstrates the gaping schism between two presidential contenders. During the Democratic and Republican conventions we saw contrasting rhetoric with regards to this defining topic. When the bright lights finally lowered onto Governor Mitt Romney and 33 million people were tuned in to the Republican convention to hear the challenger voice his opinions on the future of the nation he sought to lead, the candidate spent precious air time obnoxiously ridiculing President Barack Obama's efforts to care for our environment and lead the United States towards energy independence. While the nation sat on the edge of their seats waiting for the Governor to disseminate an agenda that would define his campaign of "change," he spent cherished moments criticizing environmental conservation efforts.
What further sours the ongoing situation in the Northeast is hearing the Governor's thoughts on FEMA during a time of pain and suffering. "Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that's the right direction," Romney said at a debate last June about the future of FEMA in a Romney administration." And if you can go even further, and send it back to the private sector, that's even better." While the President was flying to disaster areas, working hard to attend to the needs of every level of government and sending relief to those pained by the storm, Romney was dodging questions from reporters about his previous FEMA statements. Days later, while Romney was flip-flopping on the issue, Republican convention keynote speaker Chris Christie was praising the President's incredible leadership. "The president has been all over this, and he deserves great credit," said the Republican New Jersey governor. In addition, the Mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg, another Republican figure, later endorsed the President for his stance on climate change and great attentiveness to the situation in the region.
When it comes time to vote this Tuesday, all I will be thinking of is whether I want a strong and steady leader with a consistent record on caring for the environment, or a panderer and a flip-flopper that is more ready to dismiss and ridicule efforts to heal the planet than propose solutions for the future.