Despite our dangerous flirtation with runaway global warming and the ongoing acidification of the oceans, our two potential "leaders" said nothing about climate change in any of the three debates. This is the first time in 24 years that climate change wasn’t mentioned, even though the rate of warming has occurred much faster than was expected in the predictions decades ago. In past debates, candidates may have doubted, debated, or debased global warming; but in this debate, they ignored it. Something is broken.
The third and final debate was a vapid smattering of talking points to show who can be tougher on defense than the other guy. Obama bragged that "our military spending has gone up every single year that I've been in office," and Romney said it wasn’t enough. We have been told by Barack that “hope” is the way “forward;” we are told by Mitt that we should “believe in America,” but then the most important defense and foreign policy subject of all time is ignored for a childish sandbox debate about war toys and who plays war better. “We spend more on our military than the next 10 countries combined," said Obama, a trend that both candidates will clearly perpetuate.
These two politicians - the best that either the Democratic or Republican party could muster - sure had a lot to say about "defense" in their third debate. What is “defense?” Ours is a sprawling empire of almost 1,000 military installations, which encourages other wealthy countries to freeride under the protective umbrella we provide. Defense contractors pour their largesse upon both Congress and the campaigns of Obama and Romney, proving that the nightmare of military industrial complex Eisenhower warned us about is a boldfaced bipartisan reality. We needlessly maintain a costly nuclear weapons program that could destroy the world many times over. We spend more on “defense” than the next dozen countries together, a fact Obama seemed almost proud of.
Who pays for this? Ironically, those who will really pay for this “defense” spending - tomorrow’s taxpayers - are not being taken into consideration when it comes to their number one defense issue, having a climate conducive to life and civilization. Talk about taxation without representation! All of this “defense” spending today and tomorrow is to protect us from a threat that is less likely to end our lives than a car crash. Where’s the war on texting, speeding, and drunk driving?
Voters are about evenly split on who “won” the last debate, whatever that means. (hint: nothing) But voters are unified in their belief that either Obama or Romney will keep us safe and sound with all of the great weaponry, bases, and predator drones we spend so much of our kids’ future earnings on. There may be meaningful differences between Obama and Romney on many issues, but on the staying power of the military-industrial-complex, you can sleep snugly at night knowing some things will never change. So much of our federal budget (as well as our current deficit and the financing costs related to past deficits of past wars) will continue to be devoted to this perverted notion of “defense.” We are arming for past wars and future wars we will never fight. Meanwhile, we are not doing anything to reduce the rise of CO2 into our atmosphere, unless you count the temporary decline in emissions due to the recession. But after hearing the last debate I should be able to sleep at night knowing all is well in Pax America, safe on the still evening before collapse.
We should be scared enough by the terrifying math of global warming. But we should be even more scared that our mainstream politicians have failed to provide leadership. They can deliver us “shock and awe” and the death of Bin Laden, but they cannot propose or discuss a coherent plan for dealing with a threat to civilization that is much bigger than any single terrorist act. However gruesome 9-11 was and however “measured” our response was (a response that led to as many as 100,000 deaths in a country that had nothing to do with 9-11), global warming will put the destructive aims of any terrorist into context. Increasing severity of heat, droughts, coastal flooding, crop failures, and storm-related deaths will be compounded by the inevitable collapse of key ocean-based systems. In a world with seven billion inhabitants, droughts and dwindling seafood resources will certainly lead to famine.
This is a reality that will make terrorism in the past few decades seem quaint in compare. We are very close to triggering runaway climate change as disappearing ice caps reflect less light back into space and as melting permafrost releases more greenhouse gasses. Add this to the fact that today’s observed warming is based on emissions from many years ago, we are looking at an apocalypse: alarmism is more than justified in light of the alarming facts. If you are not an alarmist by now, you inhabit a magical land of delusion, detached from any semblance of a bio-physical reality.This is a scenario which would mean human misery on a scale unheard of in modern history. Who is the real terrorist in this scenario? The answer is simple: those who favor increased “defense” spending over at the cost of any meaningful action on climate change.
I am ashamed of our country. There is no flag big enough to hide our moral failure on this issue. I am ashamed that these are the two best people we could come up with for the job. In the last debate, both candidates talked about the importance of American leadership on the world stage, but how can that be said with a straight face? Our leadership on world stage is completely non-existent (or even malignant) at climate conferences and on global efforts to curb emissions before it’s too late. We fly in on the last day to offer some laughable voluntary emissions reductions plan, and otherwise do everything we can do to escape any sort of mandatory program with binding targets. What American leadership? Democrats and Republicans are doing something worse than leading from behind: they hinder effective policy.
This is the largest threat that civilization has ever faced. Yet Obama and Romney spent all their time talking about a threat that poses a smaller danger to me than drowning in my bathtub. At least I can protect myself from that threat by taking a shower (and perhaps a shorter shower, at that). In the last debate they ignored an issue that will turn the 21st century inside out. On our current path of inaction, it will be - quite literally - hell on earth. So, neither won my vote in the last debate. I will cast a blank ballot because I will not debase myself in support of any candidate who can’t honor the basic bargain that a citizen makes with her government. A citizen consents to the power of the state and yields certain freedoms in return for safety from common threats. These two frauds, Hope and Dope, don’t offer me, my wife, my soon-to-be-born daughter, and my community any safety from the biggest threats in this world today. They ignore that impending threat for a measly 1% increase in the GDP or to defend against a non-state asymmetric threat called terrorism. Obama and Romney will not keep me safe. To think otherwise is to not think.
Our society - obsessed with positive psychology and the importance of self esteem and group identity over facts, reason, and logic - tells us that anger doesn’t solve anything. Steeped in advertising since a young age like fish in water, each of us has been taught that choice - whether political or consumptive - is the answer to all that ails us. Our society tells us to get behind the lesser of either evil. We feel that choice gives power. Yet, this election is a narrow and false choice. If you care about life on this planet and value human civilization, you should be angry. Emotions like outrage or anger - we are told - are not healthy even when they are in the service of our survival instinct. In reality, our minds are honed by thousands of years of evolution to get angry when our survival is at stake and our interests are being flagrantly ignored.
If, like Eric Hoffer said, “anger is a prelude to courage,” it is time to get angry, because we are about to elect either coward. Those who stand to benefit financially from the further destruction of this planet have more of a stake at the democratic table than you and the majority of people who have a stake in the continuation of civilization and the planet upon which it depends. Even if “your guy” wins, lobby groups still bought Congress. Even if Obama or Romney have a road to Damascus moment, see the light, and fight the good fight, they will be up against forces larger than even their best intentions.
I am angry. You should be too. Your government is failing to protect you and especially those who will have the great misfortune of inheriting a climate that has a higher concentration of C02 than at any point in our 200,000 years or so of human existence. Our failed governmental institutions - corrupted by a system of legalized bribery - have broken this sacred contract. The first prerogative of any legitimate government is to provide for the physical protection of its citizens - present and future. Given their current uninspiring stances and past (in)actions and half-steps on the issue, either a Romney or an Obama Administration would continue to fail at this basic contract between government and the governed.
What do we do with this legitimate anger? Most of us seek to avoid conflict, and fail to see that politics (the process of who gets what, when, where, and why) is a raw confrontation of interests. Those interests who play politics successfully (those with power) know very well that it is a raw confrontation of interests, but we think it’s just about one consumptive choice on Nov 6th, as if we were deciding between an iPhone or a Droid. We are consumers - not citizens - who think we can control our reality with our ballot and our wallet. We like to be happy with our choice and our symbolic exercise of agency. We like the feeling of confidence that comes with knowing “our guy” is on our side. But our political system produces something a bit different than that. We must wake from this self-comforting dream to confront the nightmare that is our current political and ecological predicament.
So, what next? What happens November 7th, the morning after election day? It is time to get money out of politics, regulate CO2 as a pollutant, and see the oil, gas and extractive industry lobbies for what they represent: terror. It’s ok to get angry, because it comes from a place of legitimate moral outrage and is motivated by the acceptable desire for survival of life and civilization. I love civilization and it’s products and creations; I love life and desire the continuance of an amazing product of evolution called human consciousness. Anger is justified because so much is at stake. Anger is justified because it will lead you to meaningful action. Anger is justified because it makes a government scared of and responsive to its citizens, kind of like a democracy. So, please get involved in three areas: 1) on the issue of climate change http://www.350.org/ 2) on the dire need for meaninful campaign finance reform in our “democracy” https://movetoamend.org/ and 3) on real electoral choice and competition http://freeandequal.org/ Donate. Organize. And raise hell before we have hell on earth.