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A Climate of Fear

Help ButtonCongressman Mike Castle of Delaware bravely faced an onslaught of vehement anger from apparently right-wing constituents in his state , as shown in the video below, shortly after voting in favor of the House Waxman-Markey climate bill, one of only eight Republican to do so.

Amid calls of “traitor,” the assemblage first took on all the common myths and misconceptions surrounding climate change (30,000 scientists say climate change is a hoax, evolution is just a theory, so how can global warming be considered real, etc. etc.), and the discussion devolved from there into all manner of conspiracy theories and generalized rage . Castle stood firm and took the abuse – there was little else he could do. The bizarre scene ended with a woman, enraged because Castle has done nothing to expose the fact that president Obama is not a United States Citizen (all while waiving her own birth certificate and a small American flag above her head) enjoined the crowd to stand and pledge their allegiance to the flag – you’re either with us and our views, or you’re not an American.

There is need for debate on all the important issues of the day (Obama’s birth certificate not among them), most especially climate change, but this was more a verbal lynching than any sort of debate. As I watched these people, seemingly blind with resentment and rage, I began to realize they were acting perhaps more from fear than anger. With that, it seemed easier to find a toe-hold for sympathy, even with people whose views seem so diametrically opposed to my own.

No one  makes it through life without experiencing fear, and often that fear is nebulous, hard to pin down, at times making us feel anger. So we look for a culprit on which to focus that anger. In the case of the video it was the hapless (and, I dare say, brave) Mike Castle. Oftentimes that human predilection toward fear can be manipulated by others, cynically preying upon the dark corners of fear that haunt us all.

I am sometimes accused of being an “alarmist” or “fear-mongering” in my stand on climate change and my belief of its urgency as a human and global issue. Despite my intentions merely to educate myself and inform others, it is understandable (if annoying). We are all afraid of change, at one time or another, and we seek the comfort of the known, the familiar. It’s worked this way so well for so long, why can’t we just keep doing it this way forever?

If I am an alarmist, then I am no more so than those on the “other side” of the issue who raise the specter of  mass conspiracy, an enormous hoax, principally aimed at taking away the good life that is the right of every American. While my motives are impugned it is difficult not to impugn the motives of others. And who gets caught in the middle but a growing group of people increasingly afraid of a world they don’t understand, and changing in ways they see as dangerous – with voices all around warning of the end of the world as they know it.

And “they” are everyone of us, in one form or another, at one time or another.

Whether we like it, or fully understand it, or not, we stand on a precipice of change on a scale that defines nothing less than a transformation of an era. Change, it’s a comin’.

We are the lucky ones, most of us, probably all of us able to read this post. We enjoy a lifestyle supported by an energy flow and resource base that a mere few decades ago was unimaginable.  We have all benefited from this enormous growth, but we now come to realize that business as usual is not sustainable – not for our children, or their children, even for us, if we hope to trod the planet for another two or three decades. That much seems clear, no matter what you think about climate change.

So what do we do now? Many would have us continue on as usual, pretend that we don’t see the handwriting on the wall – the collapsing fisheries, depleted oil fields, denuded soil, sinking water tables, disappearing and dying forests… It is in our evolutionary nature to see the here and now, it is hard to anticipate what is over the horizon, and if your daily needs are not being met, it makes little sense to worry about what might happen in twenty or thirty years in any case.

But this is what is required for our evolution as a civilized society and species; that we acknowledged we have over-reached, that business as usual is not sustainable, and to have faith that what lay before us is at once an enormous and daunting challenge, and the greatest opportunity our troubled species has ever had – to make a better world, to make a more just world, to make a sustainable world. One that can endure for generations to come.

There are extremes on both ends of the spectrum, and there are those that will play those extremes against each other to insure their own short-term gain. Our job is to not succumb to the worst in our nature, and see the one common dominator we all share. We’re all here right now, and we want to live our lives, and leave a place where our children, and theirs, can grow and prosper in a balanced an healthy world.

We must fight the climate of fear.

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