Twenty children, ages six and seven, were killed by a deranged young man with semi-automatic rifles less than two months ago, and since that time we have not stopped debating, discussing, arguing and pontificating over the issue of gun violence. Admittedly, that was a conversation that was long overdue in this country. I'm glad we are having it.
But that isn't the conversation I'm speaking about, the one that our country, our politicians and our media, for the most part, are refusing to begin having.
Nearly 1,000 children a day are now dying because of climate change ... and the annual death toll stands at 400,000 people worldwide.
Oh, its true that here, in the liberal zone of the intertubes, we talk about it, and at various international conferences representatives of various nations pretend to talk about it while agreeing to do nothing of any consequence to address it. And by god, scientists who study it have been running around with their hair on fire demanding we do something now, right away, just to keep the worst case scenario from coming true. Yet, as the fossil fuel industry is awash in hundreds of billions of dollars in profits ...
Nearly 1,000 children a day are now dying because of climate change
Today and every day. Are their deaths not as important as the children who died at Sandy Hook Elementary? The obvious answer is of course they are. However, the reality of our world is that their deaths are being ignored, because the power of the oil and gas corporations, and those countries with fossil fuel resources to extract and exploit, are too great. The fossil fuel industry advertises on all of the major news networks. Even MsNBC, the so-called liberal bastion of cable news, talks less about climate change each day than it does about whatever absurd thing some conservative says about the debt ceiling, or Chuck Hagel, or the fiscal cliff, or whatever other piece of political red meat gets dropped at their doorstep.
Now I understand that those nearly 1000 children dying each day are primarily in other countries, but some of them died right here in America last October as the result of Hurricane Sandy and while that led to a brief spurt of news coverage regarding climate change, it soon was drowned out by other, more "compelling" news subjects. You see, the deaths of the victims of Hurricane Sandy, and of all the other climate related deaths from extreme weather last year, or from famine or other causes related to climate, did not occur in one place, nor did we see pictures of their grieving families, nor hear testimony by the victims before governmental bodies, or see President Obama speaking at a memorial service for those who died as a result of climate change.
Perhaps the deaths of all these children, unidentified, unnamed, swept under the rug as another inconvenient fact, is not enough to rouse us to outrage at the timidity of our politicians. Perhaps the fact that most of our politicians from both parties are in the pockets of Big Oil and Big Coal, to some extent, even our President. Maybe dead people don't matter as much when we can't point the finger at "guns" or the NRA. And obviously the cost of climate change to the world's economy, roughly $1.6 Trillion (yes I said Trillion, as in $1,600,000,000,000.00) is not enough to energize governments around the world to take action, even as that cost continues to grow, year after year.
And perhaps, also, the threat of rising oceans and the increasing loss of fresh water in our lakes, major rivers, reservoirs and acquifers and other sources of groundwater is not sufficient for the news media to make climate change a priority. The constant outbreaks of wildfires, the numerous droughts, the crops dying in our fields, the violent storms and tornadoes in winter (winter!) - seemingly none of these ongoing events, all attributable to climate change to some degree, have had the power to move anyone in authority to spend "political capital" on this, the most pernicious and dangerous issue we face as a nation and a species.
After all, how can the deaths of nearly 1000 faceless and nameless children each day compare to the money that flows into the political action committees and tax exempt advocacy groups, and the advertising revenues of our major broadcast conglomerates, money used to purchase the silence and inaction of those same politicians and media companies, or worse, used to promote denial of that which is slapping us in the face?
When the Secretary of the Energy Department, Steven Chu, a Noble award winner in Physics, resigned his office with a parting shot at our nation's utter failure to deal with the crisis of climate change, and it barely makes a ripple in our nation's media pond. What does that say about us as a people?
If only we could point to some deranged individual slaughtering children by the thousands with his big, scary weather weapon, maybe it might catch our collective attention. Alas, all we have is the truth that climate change is real, that is is deadly, and that it is getting worse faster than even our best scientists and researchers expected. We don't have the portraits of cute kids who died too young for the Katy Courics and Mat Lauers of the world to tut, tut over. All we have are words from thise whio have long warned of the danger, worlds to which not enough of our decision makers are listening - though they should be:
"Ultimately we have a moral responsibility to the most innocent victims of adverse climate change. Those who will suffer the most are the people who are the most innocent: the world’s poorest citizens and those yet to be born," Chu said. "There is an ancient Native American saying: 'We do not inherit the land from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children,'" he added. "A few short decades later, we don’t want our children to ask, 'What were our parents thinking? Didn’t they care about us?'"
What will it take for this country to start having a serious conversation on climate change? What climate related disaster, what catastrophic loss of life, will be the tipping point? Sadly, this one didn't do it:
Nor did this one:
Nor did this one:
It's great we are having a national discussion on guns and gun violence, but don't we live in the age of multi-tasking? Can't we also have a national discussion about climate change? As in immediately. That is, right damn now! I know of billions of children who, when they become adults, and they cannot find enough clean water to drink, or enough food to feed their own children, will wonder why we didn't.