Friday, April 28, 2017

Earth Day Week - Climate Change Denial is Continuing the "Ugly American" Image

Earth from Space with Stars

Photo courtesy of DonkeyHotey Flickr Page:

The old button from the Environmental Club days which I just happened to find on Earth Day! It is a little beat up (particularly the ends of the ribbon), but no worse for the wear, I think. And it is one of the few items that I have left from those days, so it carries a lot of great memories for me! Nothing Changes Until You Do!

Here is a picture of a very similar logo, with the same message, that was on the t-shirt that I purchased from the BCC Environmental Club and, if memory serves me correctly, may even have helped to make. There were a few projects like that which club members, myself included, were regularly involved with. It has been so long, however, that I no longer recall specifically if I actually helped to make these or not, although I do believe so, since I remember seeing the process of the t-shirts being dyed. In any case, I loved this t-shirt, and have kept it ever since, even if I do not regularly wear it. Since it was part of my experience with the BCC Environmental Club days, as well as more generally having an environmental theme, it seemed appropriate to share it here. 

"Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's needs, but not every man's greed."

~Mahatma Gandhi

"Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future."
~John F. Kennedy  

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms.”   

~Henry David Thoreau, Walden: Or, Life in the Woods

"Our goal is not just an environment of clean air and water and scenic beauty. The objective is an environment of decency, quality and mutual respect for all other human beings and all other living creatures."
~Senator Gaylord Nelson, Founder of Earth Day

It might be difficult for people to grasp the remarkably alarming changes that climate change has already made upon our planet, and many people contest some of the various methods that there are that could otherwise clear the confusion up. This confusion, unfortunately, seems particularly prominent in the United States, as no other major industrial nations have as many people - and most tellingly, as many high-ranking politicians - who either deny the existence of climate change outright, or at least minimize it and/or deny human responsibility for it.

The disputes about the nature and even the reality of climate change are just one of many areas in which the political and social discourse in the United States has significantly and undeniably been dumbed down over the course of decades. As was made clear in November with the election of a lying, narcissistic, elitist, anti-science bigot into the White House, facts hardly seem to matter these days, because people are choosing what they want to believe in, regardless of those inconvenient things known as facts. Thus, the anti-science spirit that has been stubbornly persistent for decades now has grown, and in now seen at the highest echelons of the marbled halls of government in Washington.  

Still, there is at least photographic evidence, as well as satellite images, that reveal the full extent of the changes over the course of time. 

Really, many of these pictures are shocking! When you see satellite images of just how much ice has melted in the Arctic or Greenland, or when you see how many glaciers either severely thinned out (probably most famously with Mount Kilimanjaro) or, in some cases, already gone, it becomes impossible to deny that there is a serious problem. 

And since these changes happened to coincide roughly with the industrial age, and scientists have discovered connections between emissions created by humans and the warming temperatures, we really should take the evidence seriously. Frankly, anyone with an ounce of common sense and responsibility would feel exactly the same way.

Yet somehow, climate change became a political football in the United States, which truly is unfortunate. Tragic, even. Americans used to equate combating climate change with environmental extremists that were dismissed as tree huggers and out of touch hippies and other assorted widows. They believed that global warming was a hoax, because the words "global warming" did not fit in with how people saw it, especially on cold winter days. 

Now, far too many Americans equate combating climate change with regulations that stifle economic growth, and with excessive expenditures from an already overly bloated government in Washington. Some Americans seem to actually believe that 97 percent of the world's scientists are actually in on some kind of gigantic hoax specifically designed to hurt American economic output. It did not help that President Trump suggested as much before he became president, when he suggested that climate change was a hoax invented by the Chinese to hurt America's economy.

Nowhere else among developed nations is there quite as much skepticism towards the reality of climate change as exists here in the United States, and the irony is that no one is as responsible for the damage that it causes as Americans traditionally have been. For many decades, the United States was far and away the biggest polluting nation in the world. That changed perhaps a decade ago, and people who have read this blog regularly (assuming such people exist, of course) will know how outrageous it was to me that American athletes competing in the 2008 Olympics went into Beijing wearing masks as a form of visual protest, presumably, against what they viewed as excessive pollution in the Chinese city that was to host the Olympics. They were certainly not nearly so vocal or present in protesting the detrimental environmental policies of then President George W. Bush, however, who was their own president. 

That is the kind of hypocrisy that make Americans look ugly to the rest of the world, and that denial of climate change is largely a continuation of that level of hypocrisy today. Americans have seen their standard of living consistently decline for decades now, although they still have access to enormous comforts and privileges, not to mention easy access to information, that people in many other parts of the world could only dream of. Since they have such ready and easy access to accurate information, it feels to many that Americans then should be able to take a more serious and less provincial approach towards climate change, and action to combat it. 

It feels to many around the world that Americans believe themselves collectively to be somehow exempt from the ramifications of this problem, which they perhaps more than anyone else are historically responsible for. The most convenient thing in the world is to deny responsibility for a problem that you played a large part in creating, and the easiest thing in the world is to tear someone or something down, especially if these are ideas. While it is true that not everything is know about climate change and the ramifications that will surely be felt before too long, we can see for ourselves clearly enough that it is real. Cities and regions that used to get snow regularly no longer get snow. Areas that used to get a certain amount of rain now go without for very long, while still other areas of the world see too much rain and excess flooding. Many of these kinds of extremities have been seen within American borders, and that is not something that Trump's stupid wall is going to fix.

Neither will denial fix the problems. In fact, denial only seems to confirm that there is a problem. After all, no less an authority on both oil and big government as former President George W. Bush suggested as much, when he said that Americans were addicted to oil. President Trump knows this, and he is using it, too. Trump clearly has revealed himself to be an enemy of climate change, and science in general, regardless of his own words defending himself, which ring hollow.

Still, we Americans collectively put him into the White House, and allowed his administration, as well as a Republican controlled Congress and Supreme Court, to rule this land as they see fit. And so far, clearly, they have shown very little respect towards that land, itself, as well as to the air and water around it, for that matter. But let's face it, this is nothing new. Again, Americans are known around the world for a certain crassness in mannerisms, for ignorance in world affairs, for rejecting time and time again the possibility of some form of universal, affordable healthcare, for relentless favoring and promoting increased corporate power, and for systematically dragging our feet on issues regarding environmentalism, regardless of which party has been in office for the last forty years now. We want so much to believe in "American exceptionalism," that we actually have allowed ourselves to believe it, even to our detriment.

Not surprisingly, much, if not most, the rest of the world is standing with arms crossed and shaking their collective heads at what is going on here.

And you know what?

They're right to do so, because we Americans find ourselves on the wrong side politically on so many vital issues these days. And none are so glaringly obvious as our political disregard of climate change, which we also happen to have done so much to help create in the first place!

NASA releases “then-and-now” photos of Earth. written by  Kristi Shinfuku on April 7th, 2017:

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