We need an army of light today. What I mean is that we need people today to stand up for themselves, their neighbors, and the places they love and fight back against people who think that we, our neighbors, and the places we love are expendable. Today, I’m looking at the presidential candidates and the many social, economic, and environmental issues before us. The Democrats seem to get it. The Republicans? Not so much.
Steven Cohen of Columbia University’s Earth Institute just wrote this in HuffPost:
A year from now we will have a new president-elect, and will know the profile of the U.S. federal government for the next several years. The issues of environmental protection and a sustainable, renewable economy are not likely to play heavily in the Republican 2016 presidential nominating campaign, since other issues such as terrorism, taxes, character, immigration and the size of government will continue to dominate.
What’s remarkable, though, is that today more than in the past, it’s harder and harder to disentangle environmental protection and sustainable economics from these other issues.
The Democratic candidates are taking the integrated challenges of a cleaner economy, healthier society, and thriving environment pretty seriously. Clinton, O’Malley, and Sanders each have plans to transition to renewable energy that is safer and less polluting and to rebuilding the infrastructure of this great nation. They recognize that Wall Street and billionaires are out of control, that too many of those billionaires are rich because of their ownership or investment in polluting industry, and that the structural and intractable racial, economic, and political disparities in this country are built on the power of polluting industry.
Of the three candidates, Bernie Sanders is the leader in my mind because he directly addresses the structure of polluting corruption and corrupt pollution and wants to clean it up. On climate change, for example, he has said,
The scientists are virtually unanimous that climate change is real, is caused by human activity and is already causing devastating problems in the United States and around the world. And, they tell us, if we do not act boldly the situation will only become much worse in years to come in terms of drought, floods, extreme storms and acidification of the oceans. Sadly, we now have a Republican Party that is more concerned about protecting the profits of Exxon, BP and Shell and the coal industry than protecting the planet. While fossil fuel companies are raking in record profits, climate change ravages our planet and our people – all because the wealthiest industry in the history of our planet has bribed politicians into ignoring science.
The hashtag his campaign is using says it well: #PEOPLEBEFOREPOLLUTERS. The fight for sustainability is a fight for justice. Who is harmed most by environmental pollution? Poor and marginalized people who are overwhelmingly ethnic minorities in the United States. Bernie gets that, makes it clear that it’s unacceptable, and that we need to address it head on.
Meanwhile, the Republican candidates are denying the science of climate change and insisting that polluting 19th and 20th century fuels and technology are the wave of the future. I thought they liked innovation.
They act as if corporations are people owed the rights of citizens. They talk as if all people are created equal but then make sure that billionaires are more equal than others. I thought they believed in the little guy.
They say they are for equality of opportunity and freedom. But then we see the race baiting, wall-building, Muslim bashing, and the systematic attacks on women’s health. It’s a party driving rapidly toward medieval values using early 20th century technology to power itself and a plutocratic form of government. No wonder they’re the laughing stock of the free world.
But it’s not funny. It’s frightening.
It’s frightening that a party’s discourse and policy positions have been hijacked by both the richest and the most ignorant people in our country. These are recipes for real disaster.
In the world’s most powerful nation, we have a responsibility to push back against these armies of the night. The cost of inaction is too high.