Pick one or the other: Climate Change or  Natural Gas Drilling.

Do we have to Choose?

When, Neil Leary, Elizabeth Martin Perera and I met with James Warner, a legislative assistant to Arlen Specter, to discuss climate change, this was the answer. It’s not that the senate is against global climate change action; it’s that they represent such a diversity of people and must answer to a huge constituency group.

In the weeks before the Kerry Boxer climate change bill was brought to the table, Senator Specter’s office received many emails and phone calls encouraging the approval and adoption of the bill. However, once Specter moved to pass the bill out of committee, the phone calls against the bill came flooding in. If the senate is going to support climate change action, they’re going to do it a way that upsets the least number of people. Therefore, if its climate change action we want, it’s climate change action we’ll get… but it might not live up to the high standards environmentalist might like. For example, if it atmospheric CO2 levels and rising seas that we’re worried about, the environmental degradation associated with natural gas drilling, or nuclear power plants is going to take a back-row seat.

It’s not just lack of information, or even urgency that is holding United States climate change legislation back. It’s the beaurocracy of our Democratic government and the lack of interest on the part of United States citizens. Yes, it’s crazy that our President can send troops to Afghanistan without the approval of Senate but cannot mandate legislation regarding the future of people and ecosystems in the same manner, however it’s what we’ve got.  As far as I see it, we’ve got three options:

  1. Complain about it
  2. Change it
  3. Work with it & around it

The first will get us nowhere. The second will require a revolution (and it’s probably coming). Right now, it seems the best option we have is to work with and around the current system. We all need to call our senators and support them. Our voices really do influence what goes on in Capital Hill, something I didn’t believe to be true until a few weeks ago. Calling in support of a bill is absolutely necessary, but it’s equally critical that we thank our senators for their actions.

I still believe the most powerful action we as individuals can take however, is to increase the public awareness of climate change and its implications for our futures. Responding on personal and communal levels, we can demonstrate our understanding and support of climate change action and have a much greater influence on national and international legislation and agreements. We can demonstrate that there doesn’t have to be a choice between decreasing emissions and producing dangerous radioactive waste or designing and building healthy ecosystems. The future is ours to create and we need to claim it now.

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