"I'm already tired of hearing about the 2008 elections," my mom told me recently. "Don't worry," I said. "Pretty soon everyone will be talking about the Live Earth Concert in July."
We were in the car at the time and, right on cue, my mom pulled from between the seats a book by Ayn Rand called The New Left.
As though she'd rehearsed it, my mom said (and I am paraphrasing): "Ayn Rand predicted 30 years ago the left would use the environment as their next big political issue." As a "rightie," my mom's response didn't surprise me. But aside from Ayn Rand's stance on the issue, my mom wasn't telling me anything I hadn't already heard dozens, if not hundreds, of times before.
Why is "Politics" Such a Dirty Word?
The word "politics" has infiltrated so many a parts of my daily life that I'm not even sure what politics means anymore. Kind of like when you say the same word over and over again enough times and it doesn't sound like a word at all.
Funny. That doesn't sound like a dirty word to me, yet that's exactly what it's become. When the "righties" say that the "lefties" are using global warming as a political issue, it comes with a negative connotation, which I interpret as meaning that the left (i.e., Al Gore and other Democrats) are exaggerating the threat to the environment in order to scare people into supporting the left's politicians.
(It's worth noting here that An Inconvenient Truth didn't scare me at all. I walked out of that film feeling more hopeful and empowered by what I could do for the environment – and why I should – than I've ever felt in my life.)
So in context of the dictionary definition of "politics," don't we want the art and science of government involved in environmental issues – especially global warming, a phenomenon that people on both sides of the issue now recognize as scientific fact?
Regardless of how much you believe we're contributing to global warming, the point is it is happening ... and something must be done. All we need to do is concentrate on the goal we all have in mind – not only sustaining life on this planet as long as we can, but also continually improving upon the quality of that life – for our children's, children's, children.
Isn't that what our ancestors did for those of us here in the United States back in 1787? They knew the threats to our way of life, so they created laws that addressed those threats in a way that has protected our freedoms for 220 years.
Now it's our turn.
We know the threats to our way of life 220 years from now. Don't we have the same responsibility to the people who will be living then as our forefathers had for us? Isn't that the "moral imperative" Al Gore's talking about?
I know. I know. Even if we can agree to focus only on solutions to global warming, we'll still disagree as to what those solutions should be. Why? Because we still disagree on the degree to which human behavior's current "status quo" is warming the planet. Yet no one can dispute the solution to the cloud of pollution that hovers over your nearest major metropolitan city.
If You're Looking for Dirt, Look at the Sky
That brown cloud, haze or whatever you call the air pollution that sits on top of the city is mostly carbon dioxide and nitrogen dioxide gases. What puts these substances into the air? The burning of fossil fuels (oil, coal and natural gas) in our cars and factories.
Aside from being an eye-sore, what's the problem with these carbon dioxide and nitrogen dioxide particles in the air? Just ask any doctor in town. This air pollution can cause or aggravate asthma and other respiratory illnesses. That's why we have "high pollution advisories" here in Phoenix basically telling us "Hey, it’s not a good idea to go outside today."
The solution to the air pollution problem is obvious – we need to stop burning the fossil fuels in our cars and factories that are putting the carbon dioxide and nitrogen dioxide gases into the air.
Hmm. That sounds awfully familiar. Oh yeah - it's the same solution suggested for global warming by scientists all over the world and, yes, by Al Gore!
"My friend, the late Carl Sagan," says Gore in An Convenient Truth, "used to say 'If you had a big globe with a coat of varnish on it, the thickness of that varnish relative to that globe is pretty much the same as the thickness of the earth's atmosphere compared to the earth itself.' And it’s thin enough that we are capable of changing its composition."(Click here to read more quotes from An Inconvenient Truth.)
Cleaning Up the Politics of Global Warming
I'd like to end where I began – with The New Left by Ayn Rand. My mom said that, in the book, Ayn Rand writes about an experiment she did in which she lived without "conveniences" for a specified period of time (i.e., machines run by fossil fuels), presumably to prove what a regression it would be to impose limitations on the burning of fossil fuels "to save the environment."
Guess what? There are no limits to the sun or the wind.
Unlike oil and coal which take millions of years to develop, solar power and wind power are renewable energies. Shouldn't we be putting all of our efforts into implementing these technologies now, not only to make the air cleaner, but also to make the transition as smooth as possible when the oil and the coal run out?
The purpose of the Live Earth Concert is to raise awareness and resources necessary for solutions to global warming.
Will the art and science of government need to be involved?
Frankly, I’d be worried if they weren’t. "There are good people who are in politics in both parties who hold this [global warming] at arm’s length because if they acknowledge it and recognize it, then the moral imperative to make big changes is inescapable." ~ Al Gore, An Inconvenient Truth