Bringing the Future Back Into American Politics
Reprinted with permission from Creators.
An ad on ABC’s “Live with Kelly and Ryan” shows a little girl dragging a teddy bear to her mom at an elegant dinner table. The mother hugs her again and again. Then up pop the words: “You never actually own a Patek Philippe. You merely look after it for the next generation.”
A Patek Philippe is a very fancy Swiss watch. If only the leaders in Washington would take a comparable interest in preserving the environment for the generation to come.
They do not. Until the Trump years, there was bipartisan support for bequeathing to future Americans a country resembling the beautiful one the politicians inherited. Sure, there were differences, but there was a basic understanding that the interests of those not old enough to vote — or not yet born — should be considered.
The Trump administration’s lust for opening pristine public lands and even natural monuments to industrial ravage is unprecedented. It’s become a religion to Donald Trump that no moneyed interest should ever have to pass up a buck. But history will judge his refusal to do anything about climate change other than make it worse as governing of a depraved nature.
So numb has Trump made the public on this issue that his decision to bury the devastating National Climate Assessment by issuing it the Friday after Thanksgiving drew little shock. The administration didn’t even care enough to change the findings.
The report predicts that higher temperatures will help spread deadly tropical diseases across the heartland. It foresees torrential rainfall drowning water and sewer systems, ironically threatening the supply of drinkable water. Food production will be threatened.
Infrastructure will collapse. Drought will intensify. And the West will suffer more fires. Many thousands of Americans will die simply from the heat.
The report was put together by 13 federal agencies. An official in Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency predictably dismissed the report as a product of the “deep state” — that is, bureaucrats conspiring against the president. “We don’t care,” Steven J. Milloy said.
For those who care only about money, the report comes with pretty dismal economic predictions. For example, the damage from warming weather could chop 10 percent off the U.S. economy by the end of the century.
There are more and more Americans who will still be around by then. Many young people and their children can expect to welcome the 22nd century — assuming they survive the 21st.
Small wonder the younger slice of the electorate has started to amplify its voice at the polls. Some 31 percent of eligible voters ages 18 to 29 cast ballots in the recent midterms — the highest level of youth participation in a midterm in the past 25 years. Democrats got 67 percent of their vote, versus only 32 percent for Republicans.
Voters of all ages are already experiencing the alarming effects of climate-driven weather events. As fires consume big chunks of the West, floods inundate parts of the East Coast.
The new freshman class of House members, meanwhile, won’t be judging the world by how much its members can retire on in four years. Having been whacked by the Great Recession, millennials, for one, find themselves worrying about both house prices and house elevation — the higher the property, the less worry about flooding and oven temperatures.
For younger people, climate change will bring political crises, in addition to weather-related ones. They will be confronted with global chaos unleashed when millions around the world must flee from their no-longer-inhabitable villages and cities.
The most expensive watch can be replaced. But as it’s been said, there’s no Planet B. Planet A must be looked after for the next generation.
Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.