Mr. President: Earth Does Not Have Forever
By Dr. Glen Barry
16 October, 2012
Listening to the US Presidential election, you wouldn't know Earth faces ecological emergencies including abrupt climate change and ecosystem collapse in water, forests, and food. The United States and world are less free, green and peaceful places – largely because human growth has met ecological limits. Ongoing rollbacks of human rights and civil liberties, as well as the state of perma-war waged by drones terrorizing entire populations, is a direct result of environmental decline caused by industrial growth and the resulting scramble for oil and other resources in a globalized world.
The human family faces its greatest planetary emergency ever as Earth, humanity and all life are poised upon the precipice of total ecological, social and economic collapse. Earth's biosphere – the thin mantle of life from underground, through terrestrial ecosystems, to the top of the atmosphere – is being destroyed. Fisheries, soils, the atmosphere, forests, wetlands, water, oceans, food and other ecosystems are uniformly in decline or simply gone. Global ecological crises are destroying conditions necessary for a habitable Earth, and our descent into resource anarchy has begun.
Global change and ecological science are clear that we are near or have surpassed planetary boundaries required to maintain a livable Earth. We know with certainty that endless growth on a finite planet is impossible. Humanity powers down, abandons growth for a steady state economy, learns to live more simply – but well – and share, or the existence of all life, including our own, is threatened.
Nowhere is the utter failure of leadership on issues related to ecological sustainability more apparent than in this year's U.S. Presidential election. Drought, enhanced by abrupt climate change, has spread to 2/3 of America - threatening national and global food supplies. Where are Romney's and Obama's urgent climate change policies? And the deep insight that such rapid ecological change dramatically affects national and global security, and must be urgently and adequately addressed at once?
Lack of action on abrupt climate change is stunning. The past year's extreme weather illustrates the United States clearly faces runaway climate change and drought-caused famine – yet political and economic elite, as well as many of their fellow citizens, are too ignorant and entitled to acknowledge it and act. The US economic and political elite – by refusing to address disturbingly rapid climate change and environmental decline – have in effect abdicated.
As ecosystems collapse and abrupt climate change intensifies, the U.S. political establishment isn't even trying to put forth sustainable development and ecosystem protection policies. There is nothing exceptional to be found in such greedy, superstitious and self-obsessed environmental negligence for a percentage or two in economic growth followed by collapse. Humanity will shed many tears, bleed profusely, and die an ignoble death, from such myopic hubris.
Republicans are unabashedly ecocidal – willfully destroying ecosystems until death – and deny established ecological science. Romney's policies are a road map to abrupt climate change and ecosystem loss – and also assured further declines in justice, liberty, and equity. Economic growth based upon destroying ecosystems for temporary jobs – which is often the case, particularly with fossil fuel exploitation – is not development or advancement of any kind, as post-boom local peoples are hard pressed to survive on devastated landscapes.
Democrats spout the rhetoric of climate change science and ecological concern, and then do big business's bidding destroying ecosystems. President Obama has tepidly dished up failed progressive green hope, promising when elected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, yet until recently he has been unable to utter the words "climate change". Long-term fuel efficiency standards do not a sufficient climate change policy make. The Obama administration continues to obstruct international climate talks, and has been backing off commitments to mandatory emission reductions, and the 2-degree limit for warming. President Obama's continued gutting of civil liberties, and undeclared perma-war using drones, including assassinating U.S. citizens without trial, is deeply troubling as well.
It's unconscionable that abrupt climate change, ecosystem collapse, record inequity and the rollback of civil liberties are being ignored politically. To ridicule global ecological collapse is pure evil ignorance – yet, to respond that what science indicates is a global ecological emergency is "not a hoax", is also dangerously inadequate. We need detailed plans now from both candidates to dramatically reduce emissions and loss of intact ecosystems if Earth is to remain habitable.
Every day these crises remain unacknowledged and unaddressed – the entire human family and all life is closer to famine, mass death, and potentially the end of being. Ecological sustainability is not going to come from oil addicted Mitt or his party – who have long doubled down on perma-war and ecocide – so there is only the President to look to for leadership to sustain national and global ecology and peace. But Mr. Obama needs to earn our independent, progressive green votes, with specific and sufficient policy proposals that we have not yet heard.
The world does not have forever: either President Obama leads on climate change, civil liberties, and ending perma-war, or else on the big issues of survival and living well long-term, he is little different from Romney. Silence in the midst of a climate change emergency – during election season or not – is not leadership.
President Obama's lack of a detailed climate change policy - and his poor record on necessary environmental policies in general - matter a great deal. Unless he presents ambitious proposals in the closing weeks of the campaign to address abrupt climate change, restore civil liberties, and end drone perma-war, he is not worthy of progressive green support.
It may be better for greens to spend time in opposition, with clear diametrically opposite Romney policies to critique and oppose. If neither Presidential candidate can present a coherent policy position on climate change, liberty, and war - much less lead on these matters - voting for "None of the Above" or for the nascent greens may well be the best Presidential voting option.
Dr. Barry is a political ecologist, and long-time essayist on issues of global ecological sustainability, liberty, justice and equity.
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