I can only relish Obama's climate change talk in the context of his arrival to the end of his POTUS-ness. Not to mention the sword of Damocles of it potentially all coming undone when an under-minded and small-handed Donald Drumpf potentially wins. God help us all. So even though Obama has done amazing work and joined the Paris Agreement which I've waited my whole enviro(ish) life to see....I just need to take just a beat, just a few short minutes, to point out how absurdly long it took President Obama to get here and finally give this interview to the NY Times on climate. Seems only fair to have one little blog posted into the interwebs abyss after waiting 66,912 hours. 4,147,320 minutes. You get the idea.
Because yes. Obviously. Absolutely. He said the things I've longed and ached to hear from POTUS about this issue. That climate change is terrifying and hearing about it in briefings both depresses people in his Administration and spurs them into action. That what makes it difficult is the fact it's not an "instantaneous catastrophic event" but "a slow-moving issue that, on a day-to-day basis, people don’t experience and don’t see." That it's the greatest long-term threat facing the world, one that could lead to massive refugee crises (multiple!) and political instability unseen in our lifetimes. Welcome to me circa 2002 when I first started looking at these charts and trends. I mean for reals. Seriously. I still remember experiencing heart-racing panic in my environmental studies classes. Actual to-my-bone-marrow, all-out PANIC that this was happening and people were still going about their daily lives in trucks and SUVs, leaving their lights on and letting the A/C or heat out. Didn't they KNOW? I remember thinking how panicked they would be too if only they had the same information I did...that any person with even a bit of common sense would be equally freaked out. If only I could snap them out of it we could get down to doing some real change. But alas, I would fail for many years due to a well-funded counter-opinion war by oil companies. Really "great corporate citizens" who hired literally the same guy that worked for tobacco companies trying to sway opinions that smoking didn't cause cancer to also combat opinions that climate change isn't real and we're not the cause. No, I'm not kidding.
So it's rewarding to hear my inner dialogue, the one based upon facts and reason and logic...and you know...SCIENCE...coming out of the lips of the person sitting in the most important job in the country and arguably around the globe. That's a great and wonderful and amazing thing, and my environmentalish philosophy is to celebrate the good...so I'm celebrating it. I promise. But 2788 days into his Presidency, I also have to ask just this once, why did it take this obscenely long?
In this two-party system it's been made abundantly clear that only the Democrats are going to do anything to address the environmental and climate issues that matter to me the most....since all but an (albeit growing) handful of conservatives are literally putting their heads into the sand...I have no choice but to vote true-blue Dem. But there have been times I've felt that limited reality...that if the Democrats aren't going to take action - or are going to be this terrible at doing something on this issue - there's a bit of despair that literally no one else will. If they fail, there's nowhere else for me to turn.
So I applaud the handling of President Obama's interview on climate by the New York Times....they gave him hard-hitting questions that go back to his failures since 2009 and question his lack of transformational leadership on this issue. Rightfully so.
The part of me that remembers living inside the Beltway can understand why with an increasingly obstructionist Congress that he didn't tackle this in his first term. And I continue to applaud making commitments that didn't involve Congress. Making that strategic decision meant something got done. But since 2013, I've been wondering the strategy in the public domain. He's been taking actions to really deal with this issue, but quietly. SO quietly that the conversation has not budged. Like he's forgotten that he has the swagger of POTUS with the MOSTUS who can win hearts and minds. In this new interview, President Obama says that the climate change deniers are a few pockets, but he's not in the trenches with the rest of us. He doesn't end up out for a drink with friends or on a date and have it turn into a red-faced anger-fest of climate change denial b.s. spewed directly to his face. I do. And I'm not just talking times that happened to me years back, I'm talking April of this year. 2016. In the Pacific Northwest. Supposed bastion of progressiveness and environmentalism. Climate change denial spewed. in. my. face. That is not a small pocket of out-of-touch Congressional Republicans. This is a denialist cancer that needs to be uprooted.
Like the impact on climate change to the Sahel, I've been SO THIRSTY for any real movement and progress on this issue, I welcomed it freely with open arms now that it's finally come. And it does deserve a parade. What Obama's accomplished deserves all the acknowledgement and eco-love I've given.
But his interview in the NY Times does give me pause to wonder...how different could this alllll have been if he had taken his case to the American people. If he had done the difficult thing politically after reelection and talked about Superstorm Sandy in terms of the increased surge that happened because of factors related to climate change. If he had found the pockets like the "Green Tea Party" where 100% conservatives have championed renewable energy and elevated the whole conversation to counter an obstructionist Congress. If instead of talking now at the end of his two terms about the need to reach out to the coal miners if he had done so on day one and brought them into the fold, converted them into champions of the movement. If he had leaned on renewable energy companies (you know, the little ones you've not heard about like General Electric) to develop their clean energy production lines into the areas most impacted by the drop-off of coal. If he had taken the climate change denial opinion battle on at the front line instead of standing way back in the safety of the strategy room and international accords. I wish I could've played where he gets to this whole time...these 15 looooong years...because on the playing field he's in, everyone agrees with the basic rules that climate change exists and we've caused it. I will always wonder how much negative impact and suffering by the environmental advocacy community he could have been avoided by his digging into the opinion war on climate change as POTUS.
Having endured 8 years of a Republican President, I do feel guilty criticizing a Democratic one. Because I know. I know better. I know exactly how much worse the march towards climate change progress could have been, and how much more painful the experience would have been for me personally. And so I'm grateful for the progress he has made. It's massive, by any measure, and I'm sure will be so written in history.
So now that my few minutes are over, all I can do - all any of us can do - is look less than eight weeks from now, towards November, and hope for the best. Hope that all of this progress finally brought to bear doesn't disappear in a blink which is to say that I'm praying that Donald Drumpf gets defeated.
Overall I'm grateful, but still wishing I could've enjoyed more of this delicious meal. Wishing I could've gotten my dessert served with enough time to truly savor it before closing time.