You know what I find most fascinating about this week’s presidential debate? What they didn’t talk about. There was a lengthy back and forth about energy policy and who would drill where and who would get the most oil out of US public lands, but no mention whatsoever about climate change. There was some discussion of clean energy technologies in terms of jobs and economics, but never in terms of the urgent issue of climate.
How is it that what is perhaps that largest issue of our time and for generations to come, an issue that affects all beings of this planet, an issue that we could actually do something about if we had the collective will, never manages to even make it to the floor? I think the answer is pretty clear. It isn’t a winning topic. People don’t want to know that the earth is changing, and that we will have to change to deal with that rapidly altering world. Either they deny the reality so that they don’t have to deal with it, or they plug their ears and go “La la la la la” so as to avoid the topic.
When in doubt, our natural inclination is to step around the topics that we don’t want to deal with. For a certain period of time we can manage to pretend not to notice Dad’s drinking, the cracks forming in the roof, Aunt Ellen’s diminishing mental capacity. Of course, as with climate change, dealing early and effectively with major problems diminishes the damage. But that requires the courage to step forward and take away the car keys or call the long-term care facility or give up things that we want now in order to pay to fix the roof in the not-so-distant future. And those things are hard.
So we just let it slide for another day. Perhaps it is too much to expect our politicians to exhibit moral courage when they know the voters won’t reward it. Perhaps it is the role of leaders to, you know, lead—to use the bully pulpit to remind people of what needs to be done and to offer a plan on how to do it. I don’t know.
What I do know is this: the best chance that any of us will have rests in a nation of truth-tellers. I don’t have a problem with fantasy. Fantasy is good. Each of us should carry a dream of what exactly we would like our lives and our world to look like. But you can’t just dwell in the fantasy world. Reality will, inevitably bite you in the end. Far better to start with a clear-eyed look at the world as it is, dangers, flaws and all, and figure out what next step might tilt the real world in the direction of the dream.
Maybe one person turning to their neighbor to ask why the emperor isn’t wearing clothes won’t be enough to stop the parade. But if enough of us dare to speak enough of the time, telling the truth of our lives and the truth of our world, then there might just be hope for us after all.