When seeking solutions to a problem, it is common sense to start where the problem is at its most severe. In other words, the patient in cardiac arrest gets treated before the one who has lost a limb. That’s why Mitt Romney’s recent statement expressing a lack of concern for the poor is disturbing to many of us. While there is no doubt that the middle class needs help, the suffering of the impoverished is the deepest section of America’s wound, and Romney’s answer (relying on safety nets) will not stop the bleeding.
Inadequate solutions from our politicians aren’t surprising, and there are many issues besides poverty that aren’t immune to the typical ineffectual treatment. One example is of our failure to make significant changes to our environmental policies. As one of the most notorious emitters of greenhouse gases, the U.S. has continuously avoided ratifying the Kyoto Protocol. Instead, we offered up the Copenhagen Accord, which includes no targets for reduced emissions and will not hold any nation accountable for their actions on climate change.
We also offer loopholes to natural gas corporations that use hydrofracking, a process that poisons the very water we drink. The United States has both ignored the wound where it's deepest and injured ourselves further. Fortunately, there may be an opportunity to hit the right target.
The island nation of Maldives in the Indian Ocean, which Jon Bowermaster of National Geographic labels “Ground Zero for Climate Change Impacts,” is in critical condition. Their first democratically elected president, Mohamed Nasheed, was ousted in a coup d’état on Tuesday after being held at gunpoint and forced to resign. Unlike Romney, Nasheed is concerned about attacking the heart of his country’s most dire threat: rising sea levels due to global warming. He is proactive, finding locations for his people to live when the rising water overtakes their homeland. He famously held a cabinet meeting underwater to draw attention to the threats facing the Maldives islands and was named a United Nations Champion of the Earth. Nasheed’s administration hoped to achieve the status of the first carbon-neutral country not only for the safety of its people, but also to set an example for nations like ours, which has dragged its feet on climate change issues.
The United States should not validate the new regime (also known as the old regime that held power until the first democratic elections) not only because they have undermined the people's own hard-won democratic principles in this violent overthrow, but also because their former leader was offering real solutions to the nation’s struggle against its own extinction. Recognizing Nasheed as the true president of this collection of islands is a chance for the U.S. to do something different: directly deal with a problem rather than offer solutions that only deal with the symptoms.
Thus far, there is little hope that this will be the case. Victoria Nuland, U.S. State Department Spokesperson, expressed the belief that the regime change “was handled constitutionally.” While Assistant Secretary of State Bob Blake will be stopping by the nation’s capital city this weekend, I have low expectations due to America's propensity for half-measures. Hopefully, our response to this attack on democracy in the Maldives won’t be business as usual. With a warrant out for Nasheed’s arrest and those loyal to their democratically elected president taking to the streets in protest, it seems that urgent and direct action will be necessary to stem the tide. As the results of Blake’s trip and the actions on the part of the U.S. unfold, we’ll find out if America is finally ready to cut to the heart of the matter.
If you'd like to put your support behind democracy and curbing climate change, sign a petition to help Mohamed Nasheed via 350.org.