Friday, February 10, 2017

But It’s the Farmers and Fishermen Who Feel Climate Change the Most

There’s a lot of irony in our discussion of climate change, whether mankind had anything to do with it and the tide of Trump supporters who have now made climate change denial official federal policy. But farmers and fishermen are the ones who most face the impact of bone-dry aquifers, flooding elsewhere, massive new storms (and storm surges), sea-life migration, dead zones, fires, drought, new insect migration and new temperatures where their traditional crops and livestock cannot survive. Strangely, decades after Republican conservationist President Teddy Roosevelt cherished the land with his national parks, it was Republicans who began the modern era of environmental protection. Republicans?!
“The climate has not always been such a partisan issue. Richard Nixon, a Republican president, set up the Environmental Protection Agency and signed the Clean Air Act. Ronald Reagan ushered in the Montreal Protocol, the first global treaty to protect the global atmosphere.
“Much of that consensus has broken down, in no small part because of a well-financed push by fossil-fuel interests, together with influential Republican allies, to attack well-established research on topics like global warming and push back on environmental regulation. That push began in earnest during the George W. Bush administration as attempts to undercut the Clean Air Act, and since then, the divide has widened.
“President Trump has famously said he believes that climate change is a hoax invented by the Chinese, and his administration has purged nearly all mention of climate-change programs from the White House and State Department websites. It has also ordered a freeze on federal grant spending at the E.P.A. and other government agencies.” New York Times, January 28th. Over time, the GOP learned that it needed social conservative support to win elections, so their policies officially drifted into fundamental evangelical orthodoxy.
A whole lot of diehard evangelicals will tell you that after the Great Flood, God promised mankind no more global catastrophes and that the earth’s bounty is there for unlimited exploitation by man. These diehards coopted the Tea Party first and then overwhelmed the Republican Party with this message. For Republicans who simply could not embrace that interpretation of Biblical meaning, ignoring the billions and billions of hard dollar agricultural loses and FEMA emergency funding after devastating “natural” events, they simply argued that economic reality simply made environmental compliance too expensive to contemplate.
When Pope Francis rather directly confronted mankind’s cavalier attitude over the emission of greenhouse gasses, pretty much dismissing the above evangelical Biblical interpretation, only American evangelicals were left gloating over the new federal policy. They also chortle as rain-soaked California is no longer drought impaired, at least for now; God has provided “as promised.” This doesn’t exactly explain “all the rest,” but these evangelicals are not looking for explanations.
Even overseas evangelical movements have, for the most part, long since accepted mankind’s responsibility for climate change. The antipathy to climate change semantics now runs particularly deep, probably the best exemplar of the great left-right polarization that has redefined the United States today.
The “whatever they want, we’re against it” polarization of the Rust Best and the southern and Midwestern states from urban centers has made the climate change divide that much more intense. You cannot even utter the words “climate change” in conservative venues without incurring local wrath at “selling out to liberals.” But fishing waters are watching traditional catches migrating away, once productive lands now fallow, eroded or slammed by massive new weather patterns that make life in farm country that much more perilous.
The impact on farmland is real, so for those who cannot accept the notion that we caused climate change, there has to be another approach.  The answer to many is to change farming techniques to conserve soil from being blown away, plant hardier crops and change water-retention/ irrigation techniques. Folks in the Kansas breadbasket have learned to talk about the impact of their changing climate without calling what is happening “climate change.” But as things get worse, it is clearly going to take more than simply modifying growing practices.
“Here in north-central Kansas, America’s breadbasket and conservative heartland, the economic realities of agriculture make climate change a critical business issue. At the same time, politics and social pressure make frank discussion complicated. This is wheat country, and Donald J. Trump country, and though the weather is acting up, the conservative orthodoxy maintains that the science isn’t settled.
“So while climate change is part of daily conversation, it gets disguised as something else… ‘People are all talking about it, without talking about it,’ said Miriam Horn, the author of a recent book on conservative Americans and the environment, Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman.’ ‘It’s become such a charged topic that there’s a navigation people do.’…
“Regional politicians and business leaders speak of pursuing jobs that clean energy may create, rather than pressing the need to rein in carbon emissions. A science teacher at a community college — whose deeply religious students sometimes express doubts about the trustworthiness of science that contradicts biblical teachings — speaks to his class about the positives of scientific discovery (electricity) in order to ease into more contentious subjects (global warming)…
“Still, ‘it would be a huge mistake to think people voting for Trump were voting against the environment,’ Ms. Horn said. If Trump follows an aggressive anti-environment agenda, she said, ‘there will be a big backlash in the heartland.’” NY Times. Not anytime soon, unfortunately.
But despite Trump’s overall falling popularity in the polls, his hold on those primary voters who pushed him into the White House has never been more solid. He is doing their bidding, point by point. This reality is shaking establishment Republicans to their core, who seem to believe that they cannot retain their offices unless they adhere to Trumpism.
Every time there are liberal demonstrations, screams from the liberal community, even court orders striking down his executive orders, rather than backing Trump down from his policies, they reinforce that he is implementing his campaign pledges to his constituency… evoking his double down response. Liberal protests are merely signs to Mr. Trump and his voters that he is on the right track.
Unless and until Trump loses traction with this base, not likely any time soon, there is little in the way of reversing his attempts at even his most extreme policies. Those that stand in the way will be the recipients of Mr. Trump’s extraordinarily-well-honed “blamed and destroy” skill-set. He will continue to push, perhaps push harder. Think of how bad things have to get before there is enough power among Republicans to reverse course. Don’t hold your breath. Democrats still have not moved the needle. Will it take global boycotts of American companies, good and services to change the message? Is that even possible? Is there anything that can reunite us? Anything?
            I’m Peter Dekom, and there are very, very few pure “Americans” anymore, just “______ Americans” with strong conditions from each faction for continued support of what they perceive is “their country.”

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