These are the kinds of stories that give me hope for the future. Earlier this month, France announced that it would set a target date to ban cars running on gas and diesel by the year 2040.
Now, Britain has just made similar news, announcing that it would also attempt to ban cars by 2040.
France and Britain have joined the growing network of nations that are taking serious steps towards eliminating one of the most important and persistent factors in the rise of carbon emissions that have contributed to greenhouse gases that warm the earth's atmosphere. By attempting to eliminate cars that run and gas and diesel, these countries are at least getting serious about taking ownership in their own role in coy and curtail this and combat climate change.
Indeed, France and Britain joined the Netherlands, Germany, Norway, and India as nations which are trying to eliminate polluting cars, to take them off of their roads. As an American, this otherwise wonderful news also unfortunately underscores just how proposterous our own political position is currently under the Trump administration. Remember, Donald Trump stated his belief that he believes climate change is a hoax invented by the Chinese, and his announcement that he was withdrawing the United States from the Paris Accord was universally condemned. It seems that while other countries are taking a far more responsible stance with an eye toward building a more sustainable future, Americans are too busy trying to get the latest model of gas-guzzling SUV's or trying to add still more to their suped up gas-guzzling muscle cars or pick up trucks to notice that they seem to be alone in their disbelief of climate change.
This underscores exactly how real the threat of climate change/global warming is. It also shows that other nations are at least attempting to address this growing crisis, instead of doing what tens of millions of Americans are currently engaged in, which is wasting their time, energy, and credibility on arguing if climate change actually exists and, even if some of these people have or will reluctantly concede that it does indeed exist, whether or not it has anything to do with human activity, and thus whether or not we should lift so much as a finger towards actually doing anything about it.
Yet despite that earlier enthusiasm, these are also the kinds of stories that, as an American, make me feel ashamed and a bit desperate politically about my own country. It feels like the United States is destined to mire in it's own juices of excessive pride and a tendency to over-analyze everything, to the point that pseudo-intellectuals will explain all of this away, and that despite the sincerity of these clear attempts by other major western nations to take drastic measures in an effort to combat climate change, Americans politically will seemingly always scoff and laugh - the very things that Donald Trump (hate calling him President Trump, even though it's been official for over half a year now) stated that the world was doing towards Americans for signing the "unfair" Paris Accord - at the naivete of these nations who are showing serious sacrifice to address not just a serious issue, but a downright crisis.
At this point, it truly seems that the United States, the nation of my birth and most of my upbringing, as well as the nation of my residence, stands alone as the only nation remaining unconvinced and skeptical about climate change, despite the overwhelming evidence that the debate is over, that the threat is real and climate change most certainly exists, and furthermore, despite the enormous evidence suggesting a clear link between rising global temperatures and human activities.
This illustrates the main things that worry me about the future. Down the line, will we, our modern society collectively, make things so bad here on our only planet, that it will be rendered uninhabitable (at least for us)? But also, the more immediate and embarrassing problem, is if my country, the United States, is already a pariah nation standing alone, stuck in the political mud and believing in causes, and especially in a skepticism, blinded by a fog of our own making that allows us to view ourselves as entirely exempt from the consequences of our own actions, even as the rest of the world clearly long ago got past all of that, and is taking action.
When I was a kid, apartheid was the law of the land in South Africa. The 1980's was a decade when causes, and political activism in general, seemed dead. That had taken place in the 1960's and, to a lesser degree, the 1970's. But Americans felt burned out, and tired of causes. The only cause that seemed to elicit any response at all was the situation in South Africa, where an officially racist regime clung, due largely to indirect and unofficial support from some countries, especially the United States. While much of the rest of the world, and even Congress, advocated an economic boycott to try and force a change, President Reagan instead championed so-called "constructive engagement mostly predicated on mutually beneficial and self-serving economic ties that helped to allow the apartheid government in Pretoria to continue on. And so the situation in South Africa essentially dragged on, with clashes between black activists and police seemingly on a daily basis, with scenes and stories these days coming from South Africa not entirely unlike those of modern day Israel and the occupied territories, which reach our television or now laptop or cell phone screens during the nightly news, and which often dominate headlines.
At the time, I remember asking myself how Afrikaners could stand the embarrassment of being the last remaining nation with such a seemingly obvious stain upon them from the official endorsement of legalized racism. But F.W. DeKerk became president and quickly announced that apartheid as a system had failed, and that the country needed to seek a "new dispensation." Mandela was freed, and negotiations began to end apartheid and white minority ruled governance. It culminated with Mandela's election victory in 1994, and during inaugural address, he mentioned how no longer would South Africa be the skunk of the world.
As an American, I feared that my own country would replace South Africa as the skunk of the world in some ways. As an American, I feared my nation gravitating toward a pariah state as well, where the rest of the world would be shaking their heads, as entirely perplexed of our stubbornness and backwardness as we were back then of Afrikaners who dug in to battle any changes of the doomed apartheid system.
While comparing America's climate change stance to Afrikaner's stance on apartheid decades ago is like comparing apples to oranges, because the two simply are not the same thing, I would emphasize that the one thing that both have in similar is that they went against not only world opinion and conventional thinking, but also against the facts. Apartheid in South Africa could not last on a continent where only South Africa had a whites-only government, and where whites themselves were a mere fraction of the overall population. And climate change denial cannot survive in the United States when there are mountains of scientific evidence and data that strongly suggest that it is real, and that there are links to it and human activity. The fact that the United States most likely contributed more - and perhaps even far more - than any single other nation in the world is not insignificant.
Frankly, I have tried to understand the other point of view in all of this. The people who argue against climate change sound so damn convinced with themselves and their own arguments, that it sometimes seems hard to dismiss them. You start to wonder if maybe they are right?
But then, you start remembering certain things. Like how Exxon had scientific evidence clearly suggesting that climate change was real, and how they went to extraordinary lengths - some might suggest criminal lengths - to try and cover this up and keep it from public view. And then you remember how the Bush administration, not known to be especially environmentally friendly, admitted that climate change was indeed real, even though this reluctant acknowledgement was not followed with significant action. And then you remember that, not all that long ago, opponents of "environmental wackos" were often literally laughing at the very notion that the earth is warming, and some brilliant luminaries among them, such as Senator Inhofe, took (or mistook) the fact that their were still winters and cold, snowy days as evidence that global warming was utter and complete nonsense, never bothering to actually look at what the scientists were actually saying.
No, global warming never meant that the world would just literally keep getting warmer and warmer every single day in every single place on earth. That would be patently and obviously ridiculous. What they did say was that, as a whole, the planet was warming, and this was indeed backed by evidence - tons of evidence, now. They argued that we would see things grow more extreme - that storms and droughts and summers and winters would all grow more extreme. Given the record hot temperatures in various places around the world, such as in Australia, the Mojave Desert, and the Arabian peninsula (all within the last couple of years), and the emergence of the "polar vortex" on most people's radars here in the United States, and the severity of numerous storms (including Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy) and record droughts as well as record floods, we most certainly have plenty of concrete evidence that people like Senator Inhofe should not ignore, always assuming that he is capable of looking up from all the money that he is raking in by denying climate change exists to bother noticing, of course.
The arguments and attitudes employed by climate change skeptic have shifted, have changed over the course of the decades now. They went from active hostility and mockery of "environmental extremists" to mostly admitting, again grudgingly, that climate change perhaps does exist, but it is either not nearly as big of a deal as environmentalists claim, or not linked to human activity. In the meantime, what scientists have been warning about has not changed, but has gotten a bit more precise.
Frankly, the time for arguing and debating is over. Climate change is real, and it has been caused by human activity. The fact that it became so obvious and unavoidable to notice coincided with the increased gases in our atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution really picked up steam (pardon the unintended pun) is not static. There is too much evidence that already exists to dismiss it, and we simply do not have time to wait until every last person, every last cynic, is convinced, or until absolute certainty is achieved, even among Trump and his supporters. There is too much at stake, and urgent action is required.
We Americans stand alone as the only nation where the leader rejects the Paris Accord on account of his personal skepticism of climate change. But remember, Donald Trump is no scientist. He claims to be an expert on a lot of things, to know better than everyone else. Can we really afford to believe these lofty and baseless claims of his? How well did that work with his claim that he knew more about ISIS than the generals? Again, he cannot argue the actual science of it, because he is not qualified to do so. He has shown considerable ignorance in a lot of areas, but in very few is he as obviously all wet and exposed, weak, and vulnerable, as his claims that climate change is a hoax.
Climate change is most certainly not a hoax. The rest of the world sees this, and as you can see, many countries are taking serious action to address it, at great cost to themselves. Literally, those minority of Americans still in denial stand alone in their self-serving denials and claims that the science is still too unclear. Yet, they speak for us politically, don't they? We as a nation consist of less than five percent of the world's total population, and 70 percent of Americans believe in climate change, and believe that we should take action on it. So why is it that the 30 percent who still deny climate change speak for the rest of us, and that this group - less than 2 percent of the world's population - should so boldly take on the rest of the world's logic on this key question, especially when these deniers essentially have not bothered changing their positions or arguments for decades now, even though new research and evidence have continued to come in?
Of course, you and I know the answer to that. The reason that their minds have not changed despite all of the evidence pouring in is that the corrupt money keeps pouring in, as well. Self-serving scientific research denying climate change is funded by big polluters, and is used to allow them to keep digging and digging for more fuel sources. But as we can see, much of the rest of the world is indeed moving on, eliminating gas and developing clean energy, while America keeps drilling for oil and trying to resurrect the dying coal industry.
Mockery might be good for laughs at times, but it is not a serious political stance. How we got to the point where the adult equivalent of a school yard bully got elected to represent the most powerful nation in the world is really something we need to examine, especially since all he offers is mockery and bitter, petty little tweets aimed at anyone who dares disagree with him. All he offers in the way of debate about climate change is his mockery and dismissal of it. But mockery goes beyond that, and it is a huge problem, especially where climate change is concerned. When Senator Inhofe brings in a snowball to suggest that this is proof that global warming does not exist, it is mockery, and it is a problem, and thus not a real political stance. When Representative Boehner eats jelly beans on Earth Day, and claims to like eating the green ones especially, that is mockery, and it is a problem, and thus not a real political stance. When Governor Mitt Romney delivers his acceptance speech for the GOP nomination and claims he has no interest in trying to lower the levels of the oceans, it is mockery, and thus not a real political stance. Mockery is of course a form of cynicism, and cynicism has become a problem in the United States, and a huge one at that. And in few areas is it doing the level of damage that it is doing with our stance on climate change, and it is one of the main reasons why the gap in understanding and cooperation between Americans and the rest of the world is growing, rather than shrinking.
The problem is not with the countries that are trying to do something. The problem is with the only country presently and actively trying to do nothing. No, worse. Not trying to do nothing, but trying to go backwards. Trying to collectively, politically plug it's ears and pretend that nothing has changed, that all is fine and dandy with the world, if we just keep doing what we have always done. Because the so-called golden years of the United States that everyone seems to keep wanting to return to also happened to be big polluting days, back when we were not nearly as aware of the damage that we were doing.
The thing is, the world has indeed changed, and we need to change along with it. To adapt, and grow wiser and stronger as a result. Change is painful, I know. But the rest of the world is doing it. So, why can't we?
These are the articles that I used in writing this entry:
Meet the 4 countries trying to ban gasoline cars by Nathan Taft, June 28, 2016:
UK joins France in pledging to ban sale of non-electrified cars by 2040 by Viknesh Vijayenthiran, July 26, 2017:
Britain will ban new petrol and diesel cars from 2040: minister Kylie MacLellan, JULY 26, 2017: