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Climate Change May Unify US

The United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has issued its 2018 report warning that humans have only a decade of so to decrease consumption, particularly of hydrocarbons. Continuing on the world’s present course, the IPCC credibly details, will lead to harsh, life-threatening changes in natural systems, changes that will not be reversible for many decades. We reluctantly conclude that humanity will probably not take hard steps the IPCC says are essential to prevent severe environmental degradation. If that’s true, survivors will be dealing with a different, less supportive, natural world after a decade or so. Speaking optimistically, it seems possible that deteriorated natural systems will be a binding force among Americans, much like World War II’s threats led to unselfish sacrifices by many millions for the common good.

The rebirth of a “one for all, all for one” mentality among Americans, as we confront the hardships climate change will bring, requires a revolution of sorts, and some American patterns must be overcome to create a united front against climate change. The United States Constitution was created by wealthy white men, primarily for the benefit of wealthy white men. And wealthy white men have been disproportionate beneficiaries of this economy’s unsustainable consumption of natural resources. There has been some erosion of the Founders’ vision in the past 230 years, but President Trump is trying to reverse that process to “Make America Great Again.”

Erosion of wealthy white men’s monopoly of political power has continued since the nation’s founding, with upward bumps during the Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln and Lyndon Johnson presidencies, and as a result America today is closer to equal opportunity regardless of sex, race or other historical markers of division. We speculate that if all Americans are threatened, like in World War II, there is pressure on everyone to work together; when climate change consequences are undeniable, privileged groups may even lead efforts to limit overall consumption. One dark alternative to cooperation is a societal breakdown where it’s everyone for himself, with widespread violence and feudalization of political power. Let’s be smart and commit now to working together when severe climate dislocations do come to us.


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