Monday, March 22, 2010


So we have a healthcare bill. For those who really want to put a smile on their dial, read former Bush speechwriter and staunch conservative David Frum's pessimistic thoughts on his own party's future on his blog today. Reading him talk about the GOP's impending doom was like fine cognac, drunk from a crystal snifter, coursing through my veins.

But as much as I hate to rain on anyone's parade - unless it's neo-con corporate-bought evangelical politicians - the condition of health care in the US and beyond is not the biggest issue we will face during Barack Obama's presidency, or anyone else's for that matter.

Not even close.

Because the quality and cost of your health care and mine will become a blip on our radar if we continue to ignore the number one issue we all face- and I mean you, me and about six and a half billion other people.

That is the issue of this planet's environment.

I don't say 'climate' because that is too reductive. Yes, more carbon equals more heat which equals all manner of problems, but we also have to face the fact that there will be catastrophic water shortages not only in third world, desert-based nations but also RIGHT HERE in the US. Add to that the continuing deforestation happening as I write this, the consequences of which are to a major extent frighteningly unknowable at this time, as well as the polluting of much of the world's fresh water and all kinds of food crises that will emerge over the next fifty years as the population booms and you see a mess that will require DOZENS of bills to be enacted by governments across the globe that will be much more controversial and require much more dramatic changes of corporate and civil behaviour than this bill ever could.

Not only that, but these bills will have to be globally ratified. They will also demand change that will require the kind of distant-horizon thinking that is antithetical to the greedy, short-term lust for endless profit that pervades almost every corporation now in existence.

The challenge, suffice to say, is monumental, and can only be met through just as massive a determination by the peoples of the world and the politicians they elect.

It will also mean the mobilization of our armed forces for work other than warfare with other nations. I have long believed in an 'Environmental Army'. My idea is that the government should re-allocate a gigantic portion of the defense budget into a program that would pay any adult citizen, able and willing, a decent wage and full benefits to do two things: 1, clean up our waterways and public lands while replanting vast swaths of deforested areas and 2, assist in the building of green infrastructure and police our companies to ensure that they are in line with new regulations outlawing the continuing pollution of our air, water and soil.

This will kill two birds (an unfortunate metaphor considering the subject of this essay). It will help to solve unemployment by offering a financially and spiritually rewarding line of work for anyone prepared to do it and it will also keep corporations and citizens environmentally honest. We cannot assume old behaviours will vanish because they are suddenly out of bounds. Follow-through is needed.

But to do all of that we will need to devote a lot of time and treasure to changing our entire industrial paradigm, which will of course also require each citizen's personal involvement in the process- we must be willing to drive cars that move a little slower, take showers that are a little shorter, use cleaning products that require a little more scrubbing and, more importantly than those petty examples, pay taxes that might, for a time, be a little higher. If our governments can actually spend those dollars on making the world a better place, instead of fattening the pockets of defense contractors, that won't seem
so bad.

So start looking for the people running for office who actually are promoting these ideas. A lot of us laugh at Dennis Kucinich because he said he saw a UFO, but he's one of the few people ready to make legislation to solve a lot of these problems.

This is truly the Big One. There are so many ways to get in the fight. Universal healthcare is only a good thing if we have a universe to live in to begin with.

For another example of the kind of destructive consumeristic cycle we need to detach from that results in massive pollution and environmental destruction, read this amazing and disturbing report on the bottled water industry.

Can we fix this? Yes We Can. The more important question is: will we?

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