Saturday, February 19, 2011

A Tolerable Planet

Recently, I reported on attempts to strip the Environmental Protection Agency of its power to regulate greenhouse gases. Today, I am sad to report House Republicans have had their way: in their spending bill, the House not only slashed EPA funding but tucked in an amendment to prohibit EPA regulation of heat-trapping gases. The reason, of course, is that they claim such regulations would hurt the economy.

The last time I talked about this issue, I tried to see it from the side of your average American, someone who's afraid of losing her or his job (or who has already lost it) and who honestly believes regulating CO2 and methane will hurt their chances of a decent life. That person, I suggested, was someone with whom one can sympathize.

But the Republican leadership and representatives aren't supposed to be your average Americans. Politicians are supposed to be forward-thinking, insightful people who understand the implications of their actions. They're supposed to think about the damn future, not just about the next election cycle.

Sadly, American politics are in ideological freefall, with neither party able to govern effectively. All they can do is piss off the electorate enough that the vote swings toward the other party two or four years later.

We are living in a climate-altered world. That's fact, not ideology. If the world's climate gets much worse, we may not be living at all. I can appreciate the difficulty of the average citizen in accepting that reality. But I can't accept elected officials' ideological purblindness to the actual world in which they and their constituents live.

Thoreau wrote in his journal: "What is the use of a house if you haven't got a tolerable planet to put it on?" That was in the 1850s. He was thinking of the future. If he were here today, he'd surely be shocked and saddened to see so many of the nation's supposed leaders living in the past.

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