I repost here a piece I wrote after the last election because we near yet another one and the issues have not changed. I am not stupid enough to think I can change things with these posts, but I always hope that a discussion will follow and the issues will be at least raised. There was no discussion of this post and this puzzles me.
I recently discussed a Reuters poll that showed that more than 60% of Americans of all political stripes would like to see the E.P.A. maintain its present strength or increase it to help protect the environment. Indeed, polls have shown for years that Americans are concerned about the environment, a concern that usually appears among the top ten with astonishing consistency. And yet, as I have noted, when it comes to electing our representatives to Congress we tend to ignore their stand on the environment and show a much greater concern for such things as terrorism, defense, and the economy. This has been a pattern for many years and it requires some explaining.
I’m not sure I can provide that explanation, but I can speculate — a thing I tend to be fairly good at, since it requires little research. I am guessing that the concern over the environment is indeed genuine. I don’t question it at all. But it is what I would call a “submerged concern.” That is, it’s there, but it doesn’t surface in any meaningful way. It will surface, of course, when we can no longer drink the water, breathe the air, or are forced to pay two week’s salary for groceries. But until then, since it is not as pressing for most folks as, say, being able to make the payment on the new SUV, it will remain submerged.
Much of our tendency to keep the concern submerged is fear, of course. None of us wants to think about the dire consequences of continued attacks on the earth which supports us and the air that we require. And none of us wants to make sacrifices. God forbid that we should drive more economical cars and grab a sweater when we are chilly rather than turning up the thermostat! But some of it, at least, is due to our unreasonable conviction that no matter how great the problem someone will solve it. We have blind faith in science — while at the same time we question the veracity of the scientists who tell us that we are destroying the planet. (No one said folks worry about such things as consistency — the minds of so many of us resembling in many ways a rat’s nest of confused bits and pieces of truth, half-truth, and blatant falsehoods — all of which are bound together by wishful thinking. It’s the only kind of thinking a great many people are capable of, sad to say.)
In any event, we are faced with the undeniable fact that a great many people in this society repeatedly elect to Congress men and women who are paid to vote for Big Oil and whose reelection depends on continuing to support programs and people who are hell-bent on taking as much plunder out of the earth as humanly possible and leaving it to future generations to clean up the mess — while they gasp for air and drink Kool-Aid made up of reconditioned toilet water, presumably. We fault those folks in Congress, as we should. They really should put the well-being of their constituents before their own political party and their own re-election. But, judging form the past, this will not happen as long as the cushy jobs in Washington pay well (and the representatives see to that) and the voters are stupid enough to keep them in office. And the fault that this is allowed to happen is our own.
The founders made it clear that the idea was to rotate the representatives every couple of years so there would be new blood and new ideas. George Washington was smart enough to know that the President, at least, should have term limits. At that time the jobs didn’t pay very well and involved a lot of work for men who had more important things to get back to at home. But slowly and surely representation in Congress turned into a full-time, high-paying job and those in office found that they were making huge piles of money and really preferred to keep things that way. Voting for clean energy and against Big Oil simply doesn’t fit into that scheme. This is why there should be term-limits, of course, but more importantly, it is why we should vote out of office those whose only concern is for themselves and their own well-being. What will it take to wake enough people up to the very real dangers we all face in the not-so-distant future? That is the question!
Good post, Hugh. It is lamentable that most folks don’t vote for “green” candidates. Here in Canada, we even have a Green Party in our federal parliament – and they garnered just 5 seats in last October’s election. Pitiful. I think your guesses are spot on. Between the environmental damage we inflict on Mother Earth + the pandemic, the outlook is bleak indeed. I often wonder if the COVID-19 was spawned by Mother Earth as a weapon to fight back. As a result of these dire circumstances, is industry working towards cleaner energy? Are we, the consumers, buying greener vehicles like hybrids and electric cars? Not that I can see. You’re right, people, in general, will not spring into action until it is too late.
We tend to be a self-absorbed, reactionary people. We continue doing what we want to do until there is a crisis and then we finally begin to react and take notice — or in the case of Carona virus ignore the problem altogether.
I would think the last 4 years should be warning enough as to what can happen to the EPA if not addressed on the run up to the Primaries at least.. Where there is self interest it soon becomes apparent that things are being done for oneself rather than for the good of the country.Parties or golf trips for example.. Great Blog Hugh.
Thanks, David. Plato and Aristotle both thought that as soon as those in power begin to pursue self-interest (as opposed to the common good) the polity begins to degenerate and turn into its opposite.
Hugh – term limits would help out many of our political problems. It’s hard to represent regular people when politians haven’t been regular people in decades. Nicely done – Susan
Good musings, my friend. You’ve hit upon the main reasons people do care about the environment, but are largely unwilling to do anything about it. One, people care in theory, but when it comes to walking instead of driving, giving up plastic bottles & bags, putting on a sweater, foregoing extra car trips and vacations … it becomes inconvenient, and people are tied to their conveniences. The other reason, as you said, is the faith that someone will fix this. A friend of mine who is fairly religious (when it suits her purposes, anyway), said to me a few months ago: “You need to stop worrying. God will take care of it all, just as he has always done. Meanwhile, I’m not giving up my hamburgers or my SUV because they make me happy, and God wants me to be happy.” I kid you not. My jaw dropped. This, though, is a prevalent mentality, I believe, among a large portion of the population. And now, I will stand down off my soapbox! 😉
I would love to know where the spiritually certain find their source that tells them God wants them to be happy. How convenient! As I read the New Testament, God wants us to love one another, to be virtuous and not self-absorbed.
Some seem to have interpreted their religion in whatever way is most convenient for them.
Hugh, thanks for reposting. People have a problem with fathoming something looming that requires diligence and planning. I read that Demark had to develop a bipartisan plan to address climate change sea rise, well because they are under sea level. It had to last long term and needed to live past changed party leadership.
We have too much money funding sycophants that parrot what the fossil fuel funders want to do that here. Here we have a recasted Environmental Punishment Agency. On the good side, I did take notice that the huge wind mill project off Scotland is moving ahead, as fossil fuel companies suffer under COVID-19.
Thanks again, Keith