“There is a choice we make. We save our own lives. – from “We Are the World”
Yes, it’s early.
This ritual where the chronicler assigns a theme to the year does not generally begin until December. But the view from this bench is that, when it comes to 2022, said theme is already clear.
For the past few days, it’s started to sound a lot like The Year (Bleep) Got Real.
Sixteen years after Al Gore implored us to face up to “An Inconvenient Truth” and we haven’t, we’ve seen climate change go from a seemingly abstract threat to a theoretical future to a series of disturbing headlines describing an immediate crisis – a here, a danger right now – facing the 8 billion passengers of this spaceship. International weather maps for the past two weeks looked like the Shenandoah Valley in October – a sight of deep reds and golds signifying searing heat just about everywhere. Britain – a cool, wet Britain – snuffed out its hottest day ever, triple digits Fahrenheit. Meanwhile, wildfires have blackened large swaths of Spain, Italy, Portugal and France.
Closer to home, the Colorado River, the waterway that makes Los Angeles possible, has dried up. The Great Salt Lake is disappearing, two-thirds has disappeared and continues to shrink. California is burning – again. The cascading effect of it all, the impact on human and animal migration, on the extinction of insects, birds and beasts, on weather patterns, on the economy, on air quality, on the habitability of the planet, cannot be overstated.
But if 2022 is, indeed, the (Bleep) Got Real year, last week gave us reason to hope that it could also end as the (Bleep) Got Saved year.
Senate Democrats have accepted a $369 billion bill that is seen as the nation’s most ambitious effort yet to tackle climate change. It includes tax incentives to encourage the development of alternative energies, the purchase of electric vehicles, the renovation of housing. With this measure, which the Senate could pass within days, the country could, by the end of this decade, reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 40% below their 2005 levels. And here is the sentence the most surprising that you will read all day:
Democratic Senator Joe Manchin deserves a lot of credit.
The West Virginia lawmaker, notoriously at odds with his party on many of its legislative priorities, had also been hesitant to support this one. In this, he was a lookalike of Republicans like Senator Lindsey Graham who believes that while climate change is scary, it’s not as scary as a bear market or bad job numbers. Graham recently huffed: “I don’t want to be lectured on what we need to do to destroy our economy in the name of climate change.
Never mind that the end of the world would also be very bad for business. In fact, it doesn’t matter to Graham, because Manchin changed his mind in the 11th hour, positioning the United States to move from climate laggard to climate leader, as it should have been from the start.
It’s the most important story in the world because it’s the world. None of the other things that monopolize our attention – Donald Trump, abortion rights, gun violence – matter as much as the indisputable fact that this planet is rapidly becoming inhospitable to human life. This dark truth has hit like a hammer in recent days. Now, maybe, we can fight back.
It’s not that those other things don’t matter. But caring about it presupposes a future.
Last week, we hope we will have one more.
Leonard Pitts Jr., winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, is a columnist for the Miami Herald, 3511 NW 91 Avenue, Doral, Fla. 33172. Readers may email him at [email protected] His opinion does not necessarily represent the views of The Lima News or its owner, AIM Media.