It came as no surprise, really, yet when I read earlier today that the President of the US has decided to get the United States out of the historic Paris Climate Accords, the news returned me to that same sense of incredulity, shock, dismay, and finally deep swamps of sorrow that I felt last November on election night.
But now I am meeting a second big struggle with a disease in my life, since my breast cancer diagnosis a couple of weeks back. In considering today’s news about this withdrawal from shared international responsibility it feels as though those who would jump in to do their parts in working out solutions are being hindered by the cancer of ignorance.
I hope — believe — that the innate creativity and optimism shared by many people in the United States will find ways to navigate around the stones of ignorance now impeding the flow.
My hope is for the greater world, for the staunch hearts and minds of Americans whose love for their own country does not mean withdrawing into it in oblivion to what goes on around it, who are kind, generous, hard working, hopeful, creative, caring, responsible people. Capable of seeing the shades of grey that define so much in lives well lived. Incapable of believing, among other things, that neighboring countries are crammed with evil minded people intent on doing all sorts of nasty things in the US as soon as they can just sneak in. That we ought to build a colossal great wall along a border to try to stop them.
Never in life have I been a political animal, and I don’t intend on ever becoming one. So this is not a partisan rant of any kind. But I am a lover of and believer in science, plus a life time member of the Baha’i Faith with its profound emphasis of the interconnectedness of all human beings.
And the beauty and general awesomeness of Earth with its varied systems of life, its relation to other planets, the galaxy it is a wee part of, the billions of other galaxies — many so much larger and more impressive than ours — it’s been at the heart of me for as long as I can remember.
When I was going through the pain, the enormous changes in my physical capabilities that paralytic polio had left me with at the age of five, something that contributed hugely to my good recovery was thinking of the beautiful wooded areas, the little streams and ponds, the myriad colorful insects, birds and fish that we saw all around back home. A few loving friends sent me such hospital-acceptable gifts as a small palm tree in which the exoskeleton of a cicada cleverly perched. How many hours my twelve year old self, locked inside a body cast for long months as I had to lie in bed, spent extrapolating whole systems of life, glorious forests in tropical regions, summer choruses from the Massachusetts katydids I was familiar with, flights of amazingly colorful birds in tropical palms, from that little tree and empty bug husk.
Years later I was sufficiently impressed by the rather ghastly movie, Soylent Green, that I still haven’t forgotten it. And I fervently hope things never come to such a pass that the closest people come to nature is to be allowed to watch films of long-gone scenes of forests, rivers and creatures as they are euthanized when old or sick.
Paris is directly linked to a process the US administration deplores. Yet globalisation is a process that cannot be turned off. Something to work with, rather than turn one’s back towards. Humanity has evolved and invented technologies and systems which necessarily link together all sorts of countries and cultures. No one is prepared to easily roll back the internet or medical breakthroughs, as examples.
With the advances of globalization come changes in economies that hurt some people for some time, yet offer opportunities to create and to work in new, emerging jobs and fields.
And then comes this “America First” rollback into old ways, possibly in the interest of extractive industries whose better days peaked decades ago, which were key to the climate damage addressed by the Paris Accords.
Despite nostalgic Christmas cards and love for Laura Ingalls Wilder stores, how many of us honestly would choose to live a century or two ago?
As the Industrial Revolution unfolded people had to make the same sorts of tough choices regarding their livelihoods that we do now — in pretty much every country, every culture, every epoch of history. Adaptability is what slowly carried the human race away from cave dwelling.
It will continue to do so. It’s a time to be creative, to see what we will make out of the challenges ahead. I, for one, can’t wait to see. I have faith in people’s ability to move forward when there is a big need.
Change is the one constant in the universe.
So, to me, the whole idea of “America First” slogan is based on shifting sands.
Which brings me to the campaign cry that “maybe there is something true about the idea that humans may be affecting the climate somehow, perhaps, possibly, but we need more research — a lot more research — to know anything about that.”
Yet it is widely accepted that independent scientists around the world have firmly established the poisonous role fossil fuels play in Earth’s shallow atmosphere. Poll after poll indicate that this is what the majority of Americans believe.
Resistance to the cancerous apparent ignorance of politicians can be swift and to the point. Researchers just published a paper refuting, handily, the uninformed arguments of the current EPA director, who questions human-caused climate change. Yet it has not swayed that individual’s opinion.
What can be the justification for withdrawing the country — a decision made, apparently, by a small cadre of people in the executive branch — from the Paris Accords? Only two — TWO — other countries are not signed into those accords. Syria was too busy with its internal vast war, and Nicaragua didn’t see that it had much to do with global warming one way or another.
So the bedraggled United States of America goes down a rabbit hole, averse to any leadership it could have had, leaving the other 195 — oops, 194 now — countries of the world working in an organized manner to create systems which can slow down and eventually halt the forces that contribute to planetary warming.
Much is to be learned from working with others, little in building great walls along our borders and slinking off the world stage, washed up leaders in the technology and creativity that will lift the world out of the atmospheric disaster threatening all of us.
It is a fine thing that there are talented people in other parts of the world who are ready to step up to take care of what the US won’t, now. As a country, of course — there are innumerable businesses, organizations and individuals who will work all the harder to combat global warming now.
These are thoughts zinging through my mind as I write down these few, in my semi-measured response to today’s Very Bad News. Good that will eventually come of it. Could be disasters, too. I don’t expect to be around long enough to see how things play out in the long, long run. I do care, very much, about all the people, creatures and systems that are affected by what we do, or don’t do. My own grandchildren and their descendants alongside everyone else’s.
At least let’s be scientific about it.
Of course the planet takes care of itself, in geological time. It’s the human race that stands to learn or lose by this enormous common climate challenge that we have — some of us — brought on ourselves.
I respect the views of others. There is so much to gain through consulting objectively, listening carefully, thinking long before responding to unfamiliar ideas that come from people who look different, speak other languages, practice strange ways of living.
Those differences are what makes the process of change so exciting to be party to.
“The shining spark of truth cometh forth only after the clash of differing opinions.”
“See ye no strangers; rather see all men as friends, for love and unity come hard when ye fix your gaze on otherness.