Steven A Leibo is the Sage Colleges Professor of International History and Politics
“Nation at a Crossroads”
There is something really depressing about watching a nation standing at a crossroads hesitantly leaning in the wrong direction. Sadly, a nation led, by a lame duck president about to destroy what political base he has left. No, President Obama did not, like George W. Bush, wait until his very last State of the Union to admit the obvious. That we are heading into uncertain climatic future.
No President Obama unlike his predecessor has vigorously acknowledged his understanding of the dangers ahead from his first days in office. Yet he inexplicably seems unwilling to act on his convictions. Depressingly, he is a president young enough to follow the tragedy of a potentially wrong choice for decades after he leaves office.
And of course President Obama did not have to be in this situation. No, only a few years ago, more and more people were coming to understand the dangers inherent in humanities having accidentally disrupted the heat balance of the entire planet. An international community coming to understand that we have increasingly been at the root of these extremes of weather, from ever constantly gyrating temperatures to massively more destructive storms, drought and fires.
A litany sadly reminiscent of the plagues we’re told biblical Egyptians once suffered in the Exodus story. Yes, global society, yes even the ever gullible to corporate propaganda Americans were beginning to understand what was going on even as the world’s petroleum experts were warning that the conventional oil sources were finally running out. Spreading alarmingly reports that those enormous oil reserves were increasingly registering less and less oil while natural gas seemed to be losing its momentum as well even the global green energy industry was growing explosively. While the prices for those safer, and more renewable energy sources were dropping as the price of carbon fuels, from oil to natural gas were rising.
Can you believe it, for a time it actually appeared like someone was looking out for us. And all those constant warning bells from the entire international scientific community were being conveniently complemented by a natural diminution of those dangerous fossil fuel resources. It was enough to give even this old skeptic a bit of faith.
And then of course, humanities natural ingenuity kicked in. Yes, some of the best and brightest of us, recognizing that diminution of conventional petroleum sources, taking note that natural gas was not flowing as it once had went to work. Cleaver folks, you know the same sort who invented nuclear weapons and fun stuff like sarin gas, figured out how to mine nasty tar like substances in Canada. while their professional colleagues were developed that delightfully destructive technology known as hydro-fracking, a technology that has released more and more climate stability destroying natural gases even as it has regularly polluted underground waters and provoked earth quakes.
And thus we find ourselves over the next few months standing here at a crossroads, in a position to either replace those last century conventional petroleum resources, with their extraordinarily ironic capacity to not only run modern society but undermine the planetary climate stability it is dependent on, with newer, increasingly cheaper safer renewable energy sources.
Or like the desperate addict, public substance abusers we have largely become head down that other path. Toward even dirtier fuels and more destructive technologies, a crossroads that our entire society stands before.
While our political leaders, from the nations’ governors to Barack Obama stand at the very same crossroads ready to turn down one road or the other definitively turning toward a safer, greener renewable energy future Or an increasingly destabilized global climate.
Still ferociously mainlining those fossil fuel poisons through all those newly proposed pipelines or hauling them around in trains over our rickety and aging national rail system. Yes, trains that have already begun to develop an impressive record not only for derailing but doing so with fatally explosive results.
One would think the choice would be a no brainer but apparently for some it’s not.