State of the Union or State of the Planet?

Tonight is President Obama’s State of the Union.  I love to watch that man orate, but I just can’t summon much enthusiasm this time.  It’s so obvious that he will be reciting lines that have been scripted for him, after much vetting by all the stakeholders.  So I don’t expect any surprises or delights in tonight’s speech.

Like a racehorse, Obama has many owners, and he has to answer to all of them.  The only thing they care about is that he wins.

The problem is that winning, in today’s terms, means ignoring what’s really important.  If we were going to focus on what is urgently needed right now, we would start with a massive push to shift from fossil-fuel energy to renewable energy.

This is starting to sound so old-news, and yet—hello!  It’s not being done!  Instead we’re still expending energy on fighting over the Keystone XL pipeline, which is so clearly a 20th century dinosaur that SHOULD NOT BE BUILT.

Rather than pour billions of dollars into thousands of miles of pipeline for dirty crude, we need to be drastically ramping up our manufacturing output of solar panels.  I have mixed feelings about wind power, but solar seems to be a no-brainer.  Put solar panels on rooftops across the USA, as so many in Europe are doing, and away we go to a brave new world of energy autonomy.

President Obama is not going to talk about solar power tonight.  His handlers won’t let him.

And so, he will continue to lead us down the daisy path of delusion—what David Selby and Fumiyo Kagawa, the editors of the new volume Education and Climate Change  (Routledge, 2010), call the  “eyes wide shut” approach to “global heating.”

If we were bring truthful, Selby and Kagaway say, we would admit that “future scenarios look grim: a mix of ubiquitous environmental disaster (including a huge loss of biodiversity), ongoing and massive internal and external population displacement as a result of sea incursions, seasonally recurring wildfires and desertification (and resultant social dislocation), hunger, starvation, internecine strife, violent conflict, tribalism, aggressively defensive localism, as well as the ever-lurking danger of genocide.”

Do you think Obama is going to address this stark scenario?

Not on your life!

He will talk about jobs creation and economic improvement as though we were living in a world divorced from our planetary base.

Most of us exist in this delusional sphere.  Plugged in, it’s hard for us to imagine that there could come a time when the physical disruptions of the planet could actually interfere with our digitized lifestyles.

Could there be a time when food from all the corners of the globe is not available in our grocery store?  Could there come a time when electricity is not either flowing freely, or about to be restored?

No one wants to hear this, but I have to say it anyway.  It is very possible, even probable, that there will be interruptions of food supplies and electricity  in the foreseeable future.

You won’t find any politician willing to talk about this.

For all politicians, and for most of us ordinary citizens, it is akin to heresy to suggest that sometime in the near future, the corporate capitalist economic model, based on endless growth and endless extraction of resources, is going to take a nosedive off the nearest cliff.

Neither the State of the Union, nor any political speech that will make prime time in the next year, will honestly engage with the reality of climate change.

Birmingham, Alabama, Jan. 24, 2012

That means that when storms hit, as they did just this week in Alabama, we will still be interpreting them through the conventional frame of “freak storms,” rather than as the steadily advancing harbingers of a future we don’t want to see.

We have such a limited window to prepare for the deep systemic planetary changes that are heading our way.  The difference between us and the dinosaurs is that we know what’s coming.

Are we going to squander this knowledge with shortsighted power struggles motivated by greed? Or are we going to use our superior intelligence to help our species, and countless others, avoid the fate of the dinosaurs?

It remains to be seen, but this much is certain: tonight’s State of the Union address, being just so much more smoke and mirrors, is not going to provide any answers.

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