Is it just me? Or do the candidates in this year’s U.S. elections appear to be debating just about every issue under the sun with the one exception? With only seven weeks or so remaining in this year’s elections, any discussion of humankind’s relationship with the Real World appears to be muted. Earth as a resource? The need to protect natural habitat, ecosystems and ecosystem services, and the environment? The importance of building national resilience to natural hazards community by community and hazard by hazard? Hardly a (mumbled) word.
At the national conventions, one nominee suggested, near the close of his remarks, “(My opponent) promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and to heal the planet…My promise is to help you and your family.” The other nominee made reference to energy issues, but linked these to job creation and U.S. energy independence more strongly than to any environmental considerations. He alluded to renewables, but only in the same breath as domestic oil and natural gas exploration as well as clean-coal technologies. There was a passing reference to air quality. Otherwise, there’s been hardly any mention of environmental and resource concerns.
Perhaps events and circumstances will change. But for now, Living on the Real World seems to be a non-issue. The attacks on U.S. embassies and businesses across the Middle East? The state of the war in Afghanistan? Jobs? Health care? Immigration? 47%? Sequestration? Which candidate came from the humbler roots, and is best in touch with middle-class concerns? The candidates are giving all these subjects extensive attention and the media are providing unending, breathless coverage.
But this year’s widespread heat, drought and crop failures? Community-level vulnerability to high winds and power outages, tornadoes, coastal flooding, and more? The Keystone pipeline? Any environmental costs of fracking? The shrinking of the extent and mass of Arctic sea ice? Alternatives at local, national and global levels for dealing with these issues? Although these have commanded the headlines daily, they haven’t been a significant part of this election’s conversation. They’re part of the party platforms, but buried deep. And they’re not causing comment like the presence or lack of references to God, the status of Israel, the war in Afghanistan, etc.
Is this because the issues are non-partisan? Because policy officials of both political persuasions are in agreement on what should be done? That seems unlikely. Is it because the topics are irrelevant? The news coverage would suggest otherwise.
Listen. Did you hear that pin drop?
First, it would be interesting to hear from the candidates what they think about
- The simultaneous challenge posed by natural resource extraction, protection of environment and ecosystems, and building resilience at community and national levels to natural hazards.
- The importance of full-cost pricing of natural resources extraction and use that internalizes the environmental costs of their extraction.
- Commitment to the support of the critical infrastructure represented by Earth observations, science, and services needed for America to prosper throughout the rest of the 21st century.
- Use of such capabilities internationally to improve the prospects of all nations…both developed and developing…and by partnering in this way foster world peace and stability.
- Exploration of public-private collaboration at a strategic level toward these ends.
Moreover, it would be interesting to hear your contributions for improving and adding to this list or replacing the enumeration with one superior.
Second, neither candidate or party should be faulted for remaining silent on these issues. They have their hands full responding to the interests and concerns we the American public have raised. For a candidate to speak out on issues 1-5 above, given the lack of public concern, would risk being characterized as out of touch with American needs and the times we live in.
Any onus on raising these subjects therefore lies with the remaining three hundred million of us. When Americans are concerned enough to hold our leaders accountable, politicians will gladly comply. They’re members of the “Name-any-tune-and-I’ll-play-it” school.
Sounds like representative democracy at its best to me. When we care, our leaders will care.
A closing comment/question:
If a hurricane is offshore, we all wonder, what is its track? When and where will it make landfall? How intense will it be? What will be the impacts?
So, by analogy, when and how will these Living-on-the-Real-World issues hit? As soon as the 2016 elections? 2020? Later still? Will the issue hit suddenly or gradually? What will be the trigger(s)? Water? Food? Energy? A natural catastrophe of historic proportions? Another BP oil spill? Will the issue ebb and flow throughout the century?
What’s your forecast?