At the whim of a beast

Elizabeth Kolbert writes in this week’s New Yorker about nations’ continuing and worsening habit of pretending to care about climate change amidst mounting, blinding evidence that the planet is in greater and more imminent danger than previously thought. It’s my biggest beef with both apathetic voters who increasingly claim they “hate politics” and politicians who claim the same. 2017 and 2018 may be remembered as atrocious years for America socially and politically, but I argue the most consequential disaster of all has been our country’s retreat from participation and leadership of global climate talks. It is foolish, arrogant, embarrassing, condescending, irresponsible and dangerous behavior for a world power to exhibit. We pollute and waste more per citizen than anywhere else in the world, yet we back away from even discussing changing our ways as a nation. The planet we live on is an entity far more powerful than our species alone, but it is not unaffected by our actions.

We could live symbiotically with the earth and in balance with it (someday maybe that will not sound hokey?), but we continue to instead be like mutant blood-thirsty parasites upon an increasingly angry host, taking far more than we will ever need. We are at the whim of a great beast, poking it, prodding it, teasing it, waiting for it to completely lose its temper.

Every mega-hurricane that claims coastlines and floods entire regions, every record-breaking wildfire that ruins neighborhoods and claims lives, every extended drought or deadly heatwave, they are not just a taste of what’s to come. They are more like preliminary warnings, a growl from a mother bear toward a lurking threat to her young. She is not interested in negotiating, but she does want to make it clear what she is capable of doing to you if you come any closer to her offspring.

At the international level and in Washington, D.C., things are looking painfully bleak. But here in Maine, we have an opportunity to buck the system in a much-needed way. We are in a unique political position to try new things. We have a governor who is open to investing in sustainable energy, state legislators who are champions of sustainable energy, and an electorate that is ready for action. Let us take that action now, support our local farms and local businesses, invest whole-heartedly in solar and wind power, and build a sustainable economy to be proud of. Maine should and can be a leader in sustainable energy, and in education for that matter, and when that happens, other states can follow suit.

As the political dust settles in Augusta from the last eight years, let’s make 2019 a turning point in Maine. This is as good a place as any to set national and global trends in motion.

James Tatum Gale

About James Tatum Gale

I have been a teacher in Maine schools for twelve years, and a writer and musician since childhood. I acquired a Master's degree in Teaching from USM, and a Certificate in Math Leadership from UMF. My undergraduate degree is in Philosophy with a concentration in Comparative Religion from the University of Maine (1994). I live with my wife, Erin, and my dog, Sally, in Bowdoinham.