Nineteen years ago, after a grassroots movement supporting change, science, and liberal economic and social policies led to a major election-based transformation of Congress and to the selection of a minority, Democratic president, many in the USA and around the world also believed that the new president, Barack Obama, and his Administration, after eight years of the hyper-conservative George Bush presidency, would finally take up the mantle of environmental action, and run with it.
No such thing happened... in retrospect, the Obama Administration played lip service to the idea and importance of human-induced global warming, but set extremely modest goals, dictated by business interests and by those advisors who intoned that "the economy can't take anything more than minimal measures, without total collapse".
Subsequent US administrations had less leverage and more economic pressure, and accomplished even less than the Obama Administration, despite the calls for strong action from many quarters.
When the large Wilkins Ice Shelf in the Antarctic lost its ice bridge and split away in April 2009, beginning an accelerated disintegration of that ice shelf and others that followed, an Obama Administration spokesperson stated that, to paraphrase, "this demonstrates to deniers that global warming is real. It will not, however, make us move more quickly". It seems an incredible statement to us now, in retrospect.
It seemed to many American leaders of the time that putting giant sums of money into failing and mismanaged banks, finance companies, and automakers, was the right way to spend well over one trillion in 2009 dollars. It turned out that was a short-sighted policy.
That is because we now see the result of ignoring the more ambitious measures that had been widely requested by the environmental experts of the time, which centered on:
- renewable energy research, development, and deployment
- energy efficiency incentives
- mass transit funding and fossil fuel de-funding
Nineteen years later, there is no Arctic ice cap; the Gulf Stream seems on the verge of stopping its normal circulation of energy; desert land covering the planet has increased by 70% as compared to the year 2008; ongoing water shortages are experienced now by 50% of the world's population; and contamination of and shortages of food occur regularly even in the former leading, industrialized nations.
Isn't it time, now, nearly twenty years later, to support a third-party candidate that would truly make global health, energy security, and protecting the national treasures of nature, a priority? If not now, when?