Serving as a follow-up to the September 2021 article “The Politics of Climate Change”, this piece/(tirade) further expands on the (unfortunately) common scenario where some elected officials have a penchant for irritating a lot of decent people by railing against common sense to score political points. I will not point out any specific individuals, but the fact that you would take a look at the previous sentence and say, “Yeah, I may happen to know one person,” could be a relatable piece of evidence in itself.
Let’s first build up the very real scenario unraveling around us, shall we?
The world has already heated up by around 1.2°C on average since the pre-industrial era. It may seem like a snail’s pace, given the small change against a lengthy timeline. But somewhere in the world, that minuscule difference might have either changed an entire landscape or wiped out some animal species from existence. According to a statement in 2017 by Peter deMenocal – a paleoclimate scientist at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University in New York, the difference of a mere 5°C can separate the modern world from the last ice age, which ended about 15,000 years ago.
It won’t be a hard feat to determine whether this current rise is being overly exaggerated by the likes of us. You don’t need to take us at our word; the effects of climate change are already doing an effective job on that. When was the last time anyone enjoyed a year without hearing about some part of the wilderness turned into an inferno? Was there ever a time where something good came out of a massive downpour? Loss of lives and livelihoods, structural damages, and the copious amount of time and resources for mending have become somewhat of a daily occurrence. We may have grown attuned to handling those situations, but once again, this is just because of this small temperature rise. Imagine how we have to struggle in dealing with a rise in 1.5°C or 2°C.
The Paris Climate Agreement in 2015, joined by nearly 200 countries, made a pledge to – at least – limit the temperature rise to 1.5°C, but even that is turning out to be a challenge. The countries that can shape their legislatures according to a better environmental outlook are either having insufficient funds, resources, or any kind of backing to support such a cause… or they’re having their hands tied because of… trivial matters.
When a promising candidate vying for a governing position ends up kowtowing to a particular base or donors, it becomes a problem. This gets even more complicated when the community he/she represents still remains satisfied with the choice, leading to the division of opinions between that community and neighboring ones – an occurrence that is too commonplace in any developed nation. One cause of this is the undeniable fact that the same people and donors often keep that community afloat and running, and it certainly would not be in our right to dictate their way of living. Its economy is necessary to sustain the lifestyle of the people living in it, after all, so doing anything to upset or interfere with that system would mean risking that lifestyle.
But the inner workings of such a system present themselves in a more sinister fashion, like a puppet show with our gaze glued to the entertainment while paying no heed to where the strings lead. The wealthy or the elites who usually reign over the industries of a community would be willing to maintain that system as long as they reap the benefits of it. And they would make sure that any defiance of that very system would mean a significant loss to everyone in it, so that adds a bit of a fear factor as well.
The concept of electing an official comes with the mindset that a pledge or resolve can be best implemented while in a position of power and influence. An ordinary citizen would indeed have to face tougher obstacles to get their principles materialized, while an elected official has the capable means to implement it (once it’s approved, of course). But once they become elected, they end up in the grips of those who have the true power and influence. With promises of more donations and secure positions in future terms, they ultimately string the elected officials around for their dance and song.
Again, not all officials end up like that. But the fact that many among them succumb to these tactics is a core reason why any meaningful initiative is hardly moving forward.
In the case of environmental legislation, any initiative that diverts revenue away from the fossil fuel (or relevant) industry is considered a hindrance. Since these aforementioned wealthy and elite do have stakes in such industries as well, they would definitely be reluctant to go on board with it. And according to those wishes, the elected official under their thumbs would follow suit. The reason would appear simple enough: “If I lose the position, someone bad might take my place” or “It’s what’s best for the community”. What slips those minds is the reasoning behind why environmental legislation is becoming crucial in the first place. It’s beneficial to all of humanity. It’s not there to advance one particular group or ensure the downfall of another. The reluctant community’s insistence that these changes would break their system is a misnomer; that’s why adaptation is necessary, and the sooner the community adapts to the situation, the easier they can get by once the situation completely renders the old system obsolete.
If you were on a sinking ship and the lifeboats are at your immediate disposal, you wouldn’t be finding reasons or excuses to remain on the ship just because it’s more comfortable, would you?
This leads back to the elected figures. If they are serving on their respective platforms simply for the sake of the platform, then they’ve gotten their priorities mixed up. The purpose of their ability to serve is based on the novel, innovative and positive ideas they bring to the table, and see if any of them can help the community adapt to the impending challenges. Instead, they end up being compromised by industries that want to remain in a bubble of perpetual bliss, veiling a potential climate crisis that may appear at their doorstep at any point in time. If that does happen, the “significant loss” part would indeed come into play, but the “everyone” part may not be as accurate. The people pulling the strings would certainly steer clear of it, and the elected official would end up taking the fall instead.
The sad reality is that much of politics is still influenced by the elites, and the addition of new lawmakers who are easily allured into the perks of power only solidifies the grip that the formers have on the law. At the same time, it’s not easy for someone with a steadfast resolve to hold on to a position once he/she gets elected to it… since the dirty game of politics would find some underhanded schemes to eliminate the hindrance.
For this reason, a community must open up those fancy veils, get out of that “safe” bubble and explore what the rest of the world is thinking about. Instead of dismissing every single idea as counterproductive, take the time to assess the facts and global viewpoint of those ideas, without allowing status-hungry corporations to affect your thought process. It’s a right to be informed.
It may be a tough choice in adapting to new mechanisms, but any initiative that deems itself as beneficial to all of humanity (and not to a couple of peoples’ wallets) is something worth considering and trying out. Being open-minded is always a useful trait for someone to have in an ever-changing world. Being shackled to the whims of a corporation or bigwig, however, is not. So, it’s up to both the political candidate as well as the people electing him/her to make a conscious choice and forge a path of improvement and adaption, dismissing the so-called “wrath” of these corporations. Because nature’s wrath can be much, much worse.