I have to admit, I didn't even notice that climate change wasn't brought up in the debates. I was so pleased, however, to see my non-enviro friends outraged about it on social media. As I've thought about why I missed noticing that (I mean really...whaaaa? how did I not notice that on my own??) I've realized that working on environmental issues for almost 15 years is like a long-term death march of being beaten into submission by the denialists. I mean, don't get me wrong, I'm flat out optimistic and nerdy excited about our future....but I'd be lying if I didn't acknowledge the insane history of this issue that led to me posting about it impacting my personal life and how over the course of a decade plus, it will skew your views on things (yes, a neocon really asked me if I "believed" in climate change on a date and then argued with me about it for 30 minutes. awk. ward.)
Here I think it important to pause so that you understand something about me. I come from a Catholic, Italian-American family. A votes-all-conservative extended family on my mom's side that can layer on guilt like nobody's business about the morality of how I should be voting on exactly one women's health issue. So although I vote on a different issue, because of that intense shaming (Catholics know it best!), I've struggled with the very concept of voting on just one issue: environmental protection. And it doesn't help that I've been called a "cafeteria Catholic" for pretty much my entire adult life because I practice a social justice, inclusive approach to my faith...that is, until Pope Francis came along and validated everything about this approach to my faith at the highest levels (bless! holla Papa Francisco!) My previous post on Christians and Climate Change is where I first explored the problems in the way that Christians approached this issue and how inconsistent it is with the life we are called to as Christians and my understanding of the morality of issue has only deepened over time (more on Pope Francis' encyclical at a later date...rich and beautiful is Laudato Si - An Encyclical Letter from the Holy Father on Care for our Common Home).
Because of the interconnected and expansive nature of the secondary, follow-on effects related to climate change, it's hard for me *not* to see this issue in all the other domestic and foreign policy arenas. Maybe it's just the way that sustainability professionals like me think...always "dot connecting"...but there really are a LOT of dots to connect when it comes to climate change and everything else at a governmental level. So in some ways, voting on addressing the top environmental protection issue of climate change is a validation of the ways the Democrats approach nearly all major domestic and foreign affairs issues. I see it as the root cause of so many future problems that a Democratic administration is lightyears more equipped to handle. Don't believe me? Read on below:
- Job Creation. If you're all about strengthening the U.S. economy then you should challenge any assumptions you have lingering over "economy vs. environment". Renewable energy is on a fast track to massive-job-creation town, with 5% increase YOY between 2014 and 2015 and surpassing oil and gas for the first time earlier this year. And if you think about the act of installing solar panels and building wind farms, it's not that hard to see why companies like GE have the lone brightspot in a quarterly report to investors from their renewables division. Still don't believe me? Well how about this: you know it's really gaining traction when a Republican Senator from Iowa says Trump will do away with renewable energy "over my dead body" due to all that stable income earned for rural economies - Democrats are the party pushing for all manner of renewable energy actions, including the champions of renewing the tax credits (notably less profitable than the oil & gas kind, but I digress) so on this one, Democrats are job creators that are both sustainable for the economy and the planet.
- Refugees. The Syrian refugee crisis is seen as a dictator regime's failure in the wake of a previously productive agricultural area experiencing a drought worse than experienced in 900 years because of climate change that drove people from being able to make a living - Democrats recognize this humanitarian issue and have a solutions-based approach that allows screened refugees to migrate to the U.S., which is an adaptive policy that is going to be all the more necessary in this rapidly changing climate that will only drive more people out of their homes and ways of life. I'm proud that Hillary has committed to accepting 65,000 refugees as part of this unprecedented crisis.
- Increasing Domestic Resiliency to Oil & Gas Volatility and Violence. I wasn't around for the 1970's and the oil shortage, but it looked awful. So I find it kind of incredible that after that experience...and the Gulf War...and the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars...that now for four decades we haven't done more investment to wean ourselves off the reliance on this stuff. It's one of the most powerful politically conservative cases for climate change action, and yet because Republicans bring snowballs into the Senate floor to "prove" climate change isn't happening (THANK YOU COLBERT, STILL MY ALL-TIME FAVE TWEET!), they lose out on being on the right side of this super obvious one - Hillary recognizes this connection in her policy and addresses the environmental issues of unregulated domestic production in a common sense way.
- International Affairs. Climate change is being experienced incredibly unequally across the globe, with low-lying areas like Bangladesh and island nations losing land and driving people to being internal refugees - Democrats support multi-lateral and coalition building approaches to international affairs, which is going to become increasingly necessary to maintain equity in the face of this extremely unequal consequences by some nations and not others.
- Global Security. "Global climate change will aggravate problems such as poverty, social tensions, environmental degradation, ineffectual leadership and weak political institutions that threaten stability in a number of countries...Climate change is a security risk because it degrades living conditions, human security and the ability of governments to meet the basic needs of their populations." - this is a verbatim quote from the Department of Defense under the Obama Administration. Democrats are conducting the climate change adaptation and resiliency exercises in the most important organization to be in a state of readiness to meet this challenge: our military.
- Poverty. There's a reason why Pope Francis wrote in Laudato Si:
"We are faced not with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather with one complex crisis which is both social and environmental. Strategies for a solution demand an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature."
- ...Environmental justice is the term that connects the degradation of our planet and the resources we depend on with those who are less well of, those at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder. In order to solve these deeply intertwined problems, it takes someone with an understanding of their deeply integrated solutions - Hillary has a platform on environmental and climate justice, and I have a particularly soft spot for her plan to revitalize coal communities most impacted by the clean energy revolution. You go girl!
So here's where I leave you. Hopefully now you see the world as a little more connected, a fabric interwoven. When I first began learning about environmental issues and particularly climate, I became inspired precisely because of how interconnected they are to everything else. To livelihoods, to equity, to justice, to peace, to prosperity. Like we are as people when we appeal to our better selves and our nature.
Ok, and if this hasn't educated or convinced you, then maybe Leonardo Dicaprio can. I just HAVE to share Before the Flood since it's a new and extremely well-done walkthrough on climate (props for making it so widely available!!)....and I have to admit even my climate-know-it-all self got goosebumps at Piers Sellers "final mission" segment. Heart stuff.
Yes, it was purposefully released in the lead up to the U.S. election.
Yes, you should absolutely let it sway your vote :)