I’m not sure which component of our current climate status I find most depressing. Perhaps the “couture-ization” of being environmentally conscious; a fad that is more consumer-based than it is helpful. For many, if we are incapable of wearing it on a tote-bag, it is easily dismissed. Or perhaps the fact that destruction has become so intrinsically woven into our lives that reading a headline about “at least 20 people dying due to extremely cold temperatures” makes us gasp as we read it while pumping gas into our cars—but all too soon does it become a fact of someone else’s life, as we drive away from the station. Anyone and everyone (even me, who, in the grand scheme of authorship, is a spec amongst many others) is writing about climate change. The evermore glaring fact accompanying that, is that the government is so blatantly putting forth efforts to discredit climate change. Trump’s incessant referral of the crisis as “global warming”—appealing to the small percentage of people who hold climate change as only weather that is uncharacteristically warm—as an effort to undermine any climate challenges that occur on the cold spectrum is meant to distract us as laughable, ridiculous, and rudimentary-at-best for the most powerful man in the world. But his call for global warming to relieve the environmental chaos in the Midwest this past week is far from comical. It is, plain and simple, dangerous. We have put a business man in the White House, and I can not feign being shocked by his incredulous acts of money and power-hungry greed. In an attempt to appease his base, those that, through an outdated practice (electoral college) got enough votes to put him in office, he undermines the clear and evidenced fact that we are in danger.
It is no longer a matter of “if” the planet will crumble, but rather of when. We are being bombarded with studies and news reports that prove that climate change is not imminent, but rather upon us. As cited by The New York Times, a 2018 report from the United Nations found that we could see grave results from climate change by 2040, at an increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius rather than the 2 degrees that was previously thought. We hold our higher education system at an esteemed level, but the government is quick to undermine the scientists it produces as soon as their studies offer evidence that is unaligned with achieving incumbency, power, profit, or another spot on the superlative page often known as Washington.
Disaster is commonplace for us now. What the United States has allowed to occur politically in recent years has normalized disasters. We have allowed for the highest man in office to degrade women, those with special needs, and war veterans. He has continuously made a mockery of most of our intelligence officials and many of our institutions. The road has been paved for him to denounce climate change continuously, and he has the power to tear down protections and efforts, like the Paris Climate Agreement, anti-coal laws, or parts of the EPA. We’ve been put in a place (unfortunately, partly from our own doing) of shrugging our shoulders, and accepting that this is now the world we live in. Through this normalization of, well, craziness, we have been able to dismiss tragedy. In the break-room, we might mention an accident we witnessed on the road on the way to work, but it soon becomes an aftereffect. Because whomever was involved in that accident was not us, was not someone close to us. They were a separate entity, someone we have been able to (however subconsciously) dehumanize. Climate change and environmental crises have become our road-side accidents. Those 20 people in the Midwest who died, become quick-to-forget faces on the evening news, sound bites.
There has become a detachment from the approaching destruction of our environment, our civilization. Humans have never been a preparatory species. Like college students and final papers, we will wait until the last possible moment to act. However, the results of our final cramming will not be a B+, probably not even a C. The world is being destroyed because there’s still more left to burn. There are still more trees to cut down, more oil to drill, more energy to waste. But we must not wait until the world becomes a wasteland to act—it is the difference between “we can” and “I wish we had.” We are reaching the point of no return, but our detachment allows us to admit that, yes, climate change is real, but it is not something that’s happening to me. It happened to those people in the Midwest, sure. It will surely hit Puerto Rico (as if they need anything else), but not me. This line of thinking is exactly what allows the current government to get away with inflammatory statements about global warming and the state of our environment. Those that sit in office will likely be the last to go under, the last to freeze, the last to truly feel the results of what we continue to perpetuate. They are the ones that create and continue the idea that a crisis does not truly exist unless it, in some way, is happening to them. To quote a World War II era poem:
“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”
We must use the 2020 elections and our voices, before, after, and always, to speak out, to act. The moment we deem ourselves untouchable by tragedy is the moment the lightening strikes our houses. The damage of our negligence is irreversible, and the longer we continue on this path the more we welcome the tragedy, the destruction of our world. So do not become compliant. We are not victims of a political regime unless we choose to be. Your voice still matters. Behave as such.