In an era of fires, floods, and power outages, “the most urgent imperative now is to turn our fear and frustration into votes,” ex-New York Times environment reporter Justin Gillis argues in an opinion piece for his former paper.
“Today, we act surprised as the climate emergency descends upon us in all its ferocity,” Gillis writes, with power cuts in northern California, a second round of flooding in Houston, record-shattering fall heat waves in the southern U.S., and saltwater incursions as the ocean rises around Miami. But “all of it was predicted, in general outline, decades ago. We did not listen. Ideologues and paid shills cajoled us to ignore the warnings. Politicians cashed their cheques from the fossil fuel lobbyists and slithered away.”
Now, “if there is any fix for the situation, it will not be cheap or easy,” he warns. But “tempting as it is to blame the politicians and the fossil fuel executives for the fix we find ourselves in, that is too easy. At any time in these last three decades, we could have woken up.” Decades after then-NASA scientist James Hansen raised the alarm before the U.S. Congress in 1988, Gillis says, #ClimateStrike founder Greta Thunberg is inspiring millions to march in the streets. “We are angry, and should be, but let’s spare a moment to be angry at ourselves for waiting so long.”
But even if some of the worst impacts of climate change can no longer be averted, what matters most is where we direct that anger.
“The climate troglodytes must be thrown out of office, starting with Donald J. Trump,” Gillis writes, addressing an electorate with 13 months rather than five days remaining before a decisive vote. “We need laws with teeth to propel the clean energy transition: hard targets, bans, taxes, mandates. We cannot stand back for another presidential election in which the Republican Party lies about this issue while the Democratic Party hides from it.”
[Canadians have been saying much the same thing, and campaigning like it matters.—Ed.]
Gillis paints a picture of Thunberg standing alone outside the Swedish parliament and marvels at the birth of a global movement. “Older people forced the youth into this situation by our dereliction, and now we must not let them carry the battle alone,” he writes. “We can sit back, citizens, and watch the fires and the floods and the heat waves with a rising sense of doom. Or we can be as brave as a schoolgirl and decide that now is the time to stand up and fight.”