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Elections 2016 – A Familiar Desert

This blog has defined “Too Many People Consuming Too Much” as the primary threat, this century, to continuation of the civilization we are accustomed to enjoying. The oncoming flood of environmental bad news, each recent year hotter than the last, will be ignored by mainstream candidates and office holders, Republican and Democratic alike, for the following reasons:

1. The American voting public does not like politicians who call attention to any dangerous, negative likely future events, unless the negative can be fixed by military force or can be easily blamed on political rivals. Talking about the planet’s getting significantly hotter so far in the 21st century, and the implications of climate change for all of us, would seem pessimistic. Ronald Reagan among others have proved that optimism, as in “It’s morning in America,” is usually the winning message.

2. If “too many people consuming too much” is the world’s core environmental problem, then worshipping at the altar of increasing economic growth is wrong. Economic growth implies greater consumption of natural resources, and there is truly no free lunch. Switching from burning coal to alternative energy will slow our descent to a less-friendly world, but manufacture of “clean energy” facilities, their maintenance, and distribution of the energy produced each have their own environmental costs. Few American politicians will broadcast a message that we should look for ways to consume less energy. A labor union leader once expressed his goal as “More, More, More”; that is a good description of the general public mindset on consumption.

3. Slowing and then reversing population growth is a difficult message for American politicians to sell. Many religious and other “conservative” leaders vehemently oppose birth control and government support for organizations that would help men and women limit births. Donald Trump, author of many faults, has taken useful positions on immigration based on keeping people out of the United States or forcing them to return to their birth countries. This would probably help slow deterioration of American natural systems, though it would accelerate crisis in over-populated countries the refugees come from.

So what do we do? We support incremental changes in the 2016 election because we want to do something, and because we know that measures that could make a real difference, like a high carbon tax, are not going to clear any political hurdles. Polls and our own common sense, honed by talking with friends, says that American voters will not accept, for instance, the immediate discomforts of paying much greater prices for energy and “stuff”, even if that is the right thing to do for their children. We wait for Mother Nature to make her messages louder and clearer, as natural systems change, and we listen and hope for the best for ourselves and our children.


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