By FRANK CARINI
Why must we label the threat we pose to the planet? Do the terms “climate change” and “global warming” even accurately define the environmental problems we face? All these media-generated phrases do, like “fiscal cliff” and “sequester,” is make a topic easily parsed by TV talking heads.
It’s mind-numbing that we even debate whether or not many of our actions have or are having a negative impact on the air, water and earth the third rock from the sun needs to survive. But the terms climate change and global warming have given those who believe they have the right to bulldoze wetlands, rip up prime agricultural land, build a casino parking lot without permission, clear-cut forests, dismantle public transit, pollute at will and consume without conscience something to rally against.
Warnings of sea-level rise or the need for environmental protections — you know, those job-killing regulations — don’t resonate with the self-centered who believe their money and/or guns will shield them from more intense and more frequent storms.
Many, especially those with wealth, power or both, argue against common sense and the future of this wildly — but quickly becoming less so — diverse sphere because the swamp green color of money always trumps the actual importance of swamps.
We know that if you sit in a closed garage with the engine running, you will die from carbon monoxide poisoning. Yet, many dismiss the nastiness we’ve been spewing into the atmosphere, dumping into our waters and feeding to our land since the start of the Industrial Revolution two-plus centuries ago as the cost of doing business. They assume the planet has no breaking point; that it’s resources are limitless.
If not, they’ll be invited to Newt Gingrich’s moon colony to exploit its resources for personal gain.
Our choices come with a cost, but we seldom take the long view. We’re blinded by greed, numbed by narcism and addicted to the quick fix. If we were stranded in a desert with hundreds of miles to go and someone handed us a canteen filled with water, we would gulp it down all at once. We love kicking the can down a future generation’s throat.
We’re continuously duped by the self-serving powerful — the gods that call themselves “job creators” and answer to no one but their share holders. To them, the environment is just another sector to rape and pillage.
And, as the recent edition of Mother Jones reported, several big “environmental” groups get much of their millions from the likes of ExxonMobil, the American Petroleum Institute and the Malaysian Palm Oil Board — all of whom represent environmentally destructive industries.
The hypocrisy doesn’t end there.
If there are too many deer in a certain habitat, we cull the herd to control the population. We shoot seagulls at the Central Landfill because they are considered a nuisance and a danger.
Meanwhile, the world’s human population stands at about 7 billion, and grows by about 80 million annually — the equivalent of adding a new Egypt every year. We address this issue by celebrating an Arkansas family with 17 children. There are far too many media puff pieces written about this family to count. A “Today” show story even refers to the family — the size of an NBA roster, plus two — as overachievers.
A woman the media dubs “Octomom,” who conceived her octuplets after giving birth to six other children, gets more in-depth press attention than the dangers associated with fracking.
While she signs a deal with a British reality TV producer to make a reality television show, the realities of fracking are pushed to the media fringes, because money and power are to be gained.
We can’t even have a reasonable — and much-needed — conversation about the impact our growing presence on the planet is having now and will have in the future.
The Religious Right sticks its fingers in its ears and relentlessly rails against contraception. Congressional leaders are still up in arms over the Obama administration’s decision to require employer-provided health insurance to cover contraception. Family planning services and sex education are seen as socialist scams, and we’d rather arm our teachers and professors than hand out condoms to high school students and college undergraduates.
But how do we pull our collective heads out of the tar sands and value the Earth’s lush green more than the green being manipulated on Wall Street? It won’t be easy, but we should start by voting with our minds and with our money. Buy local. Demand better journalism. Attend protests, such as the recent Keystone XL pipeline protest in Washington, D.C. Make your voice heard on important issues.
Remember, it’s not climate change we’re fighting. It’s ourselves.
Frank Carini is the editor of ecoRI News.