If you're wondering why there's such a widespread sense of apathy for environmental issues, and reforms meant to make the world a better place for our children and our children's children, here is the number one stumbling block that is the elephant in the room:
A recent poll has found that 41 percent of American adults believe the end times have arrived.
The percentage is even higher among certain Christian groups, according to a press release. More than three-quarters of Evangelicals (77 percent) and more than half of Protestants (54 percent) agree that "the world is currently living in the 'end times' as described by prophecies in the Bible."
Most Catholics take a different view of the world's current state, with 73 percent of them saying the end times have not arrived, though 45 percent of practicing Catholics say they have.
This, more than Republican opposition, more than the tidal waves of big money, more than the roiling horde of lobbyists, is the reason that environmentalists and big-picture progressive reformists have trouble making change. Even if the poll itself turns out to be bullshit, it is inarguable that there is a huge percentage of the population believes it's all going to be over soon.
If you think the End Times are around the corner, why would you be willing to spend inordinate amounts of money trying to stop the polar ice caps from melting and sea levels from rising? What care you what the projected acidity of the oceans will be by 2050?
We've got to get past this mindset. The general apathy towards long-term progress is the only reason conservatives and Big Money have been able to successfully play defense for so long. Most people want the best for their kids, and they like the idea of making the country a better place. If we got even a decently-sized chunk of this number to turn to the causes of conservation and reform, then all the right wing obstructionism in the world wouldn't be able to withstand us. Apathy is the only reason they can get obstructionism to work. And apocalypticism is the key to much of the apathy in this country. Why march to stop Florida from getting washed away if you don't think Florida, you, or your kids will exist soon?
What is the key to reversing this mindset? I think it's the children. Sure "the children" get thrown around as the ultimate cliche by environmentalists, and as Bill McKibben has pointed out, the changes are already happening now, never mind when our children are in their prime.
But if on the one hand you believe that the apocalypse will soon be at hand, does that mean that on the other hand you haven't likely thought about your kids graduating and potentially going to college? Do you tell your kids to study and get good grades? What for? Do you wistfully think about the day your kids get married and give you grandchildren? Even if that's a decade or more down the line? These conflicting hopes and fears are the rhetorical key. We may fear the end of the world, but we should also prepare for our kids' futures all the same. Because that's what responsible adulthood is all about, even for the 41% who believe the End Times are at hand.