Coal For Christmas

If I were Santa Claus, I would give President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney a stocking full of coal for Christmas. Santa knows when you’ve been naughty (mischaracterizing your opponent is so naughty), consequently they’re both on the list that I’d be checking twice. But even if they weren’t naughty I’d still have to give it to them because, well…they both asked for it!

Responsible world leaders with future generations’ best interests in mind don’t argue about who is more supportive of antiquated, dirty technology. They don’t get in a pissing contest about who will open up more public land to exploitation. They don’t perpetuate the myth that US oil production somehow controls the price of a global commodity. And they certainly don’t do any of these things without in the same breath speaking to the importance of developing permanent domestic energy sources and the supporting infrastructure which ensure a vibrant future for our children and grandchildren.

I can’t take the President or Mitt Romney seriously because neither of them seems to take their own energy policies seriously either. Discussing long-term economic policies without a corresponding realistic discussion about our energy future is like talking about smoking without talking about cancer. I don’t feel the need to remind everyone that fossil energy is the lifeblood of our industrialized world. There’s no doubt we need oil, coal, and natural gas right now. But we should be spending more not less on figuring out how we’re going to keep our economy healthy in a world where fossil energy isn’t as abundant as it has been for the last 200 years. Oil production in Texas peaked in 1972. Do either of the candidates have any ideas about how to keep the US economy competitive other than “drill, baby, drill”? We’re 40 years into the down slope of US oil production, people!

We’ve just come out of a summer season that broke 17,000 heat records in the US. Despite this alarming statistic, as Jamie Henn at notes, there has been 270 minutes of debates and not one peep about climate change.

Not one mention of the drought that devastated half of our national corn crop and sent food prices soaring or the wildfires that swallowed up millions of acres of the American West this summer. We’re on the verge of a new Dust Bowl but both of these men would prefer to stick their heads in the parched Earth. Not one glance towards the Arctic, which has lost 45% of its summer sea ice coverage since the 1980s. Not one word about mounting biodiversity losses or expanding oceanic dead zones caused by industrial chemical runoff. Nothing about sea level rises, which are proceeding much faster than scientists originally projected and will reach six feet by 2100 at current rates.

When I was a boy we lived in Miami, Florida for five years. I loved it there. We rode our bikes to the beach and went fishing off the pier. We enjoyed the warm sunshine and the awesome Cuban food. We also occasionally hunkered down for a passing hurricane that would disrupt life-as-usual for weeks at a time. As these storms grow more frequent and severe I wouldn’t want to raise my children there. They wouldn’t enjoy it like I did. At this rate they won’t have the option because a six-foot sea level rise puts most of southern Florida squarely underwater, and I’m not talking about their mortgages. Actually, I’d imagine the houses won’t be worth much at that point so maybe it’s an “underwater” double endentre.

So what should we do? Give up? I think not. This is a website about the eternally possible future. But until political or social conditions force the hand of government, we’ll have to be satisfied with the kind of vacant discourse that is currently being heaped on us. It’s actually kind of insulting to our collective intelligence that we don’t have a real conversation about the future. I expect more. My unborn children and grandchildren demand a real discussion! I don’t want to have to someday answer the question, “Grandpa, what was Miami like?”

Coal for you both!


  1. Brooke Van Roekel

    Mark, thank you for bringing such a great voice and perspective to this very important point. I, too, have been highly disappointed by not only the politicians but the media for not pushing the inter-relatedness of our economy and the environment. We can’t go any longer keeping these two forces separate, and more pointedly, we can’t keep burying environmental issues. We keep ignoring them, and it’s going to become harder and harder to change in order to protect the future.

    I like the lens you bring and the well-researched point of view you share. Keep writing! I’ll be sure to follow.

    • marklar

      Thank you Brooke! I wrote this post before the third debate thinking there was still a chance that we would have some sort of *honest-ish* discussion about climate change, but alas, nothing surfaced. This is the first Presidential debate since 1984 in which climate change has not been mentioned as a major domestic and foreign policy challenge for the United Stated. It unacceptable, especially since we’re at a point when the alarm bells are sounding from all angles.

      I’ll keep writing if you’ll keep reading 🙂

  2. Pingback: Hurricane Sandy v. Denialism « Unnatural Disasters

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