The number of Britons who acknowledge the reality of climate change has fallen, according to a recent BBC poll.
I shall be offering no prizes (repeat, no prizes) for guessing the source of climate confusion in the land of my birth. But if you guessed "oil companies," give yourself a pat on the back.
ExxonMobil is one of the fossil-fuel giants behind a network of right-wing think tanks successfully pushing climate-change-denialism into the popular media, says the UK's Independent newspaper.
The bright side? It's not only Americans who are falling prey to corporate-sponsored climate-change denialism. Apparently a British accent is no predictor of intellectual ability or an indication of inherent authority after all, although any of my students (or offspring) who happen to have stumbled across this blog should disregard that last comment. I really do know best.
In the face of the Right's success in making climate-change denialism part of the debate among grown-ups who ought to know better, how should progressives respond? One option is to continue supporting Democratic office-holders who talk a good game about climate-change solutions but vote for decidedly dodgy cap-and-trade non-solutions like the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). For a strong indictment of carbon-trading I recommend Mark Schapiro's "Conning the Climate" in the current Harper's Magazine.
Another option, popular among Democratic activists and voters alike during the senatorial special election, was to take what I think of as the Comfy Chair Option. My goal in this post is to urge readers to renounce that option and all its works. But I do understand its appeal.
After a decade of directionless Democratic supermajorities in Massachusetts and a year of Democratic under-achievement at the national level, many Bay State progressives are feeling disappointed, disaffected, and distraught. Yes, there is a welcoming home waiting for them in the GRP, but even I (a Green with the zeal of the convert) have to admit to a continuing dearth of legislative candidates and active local branches. And on the path from Democratic to Green is the comfy chair of alienation.
Some contributors to the blog just across the aisle (BlueMassGroup) are having a healthy and robust debate about the merits of fighting on within the party as opposed to supporting third-party candidates, among them my friend Leo Maley, who managed my successful 2004 campaign for Governor's Council. One of Leo's observations that jumps off the screen is that the 25 open seats in this year's legislative elections present progressives with an opportunity to change the dynamic of the State House for the next decade.
Yes, 25 seats with no Democratic incumbent. As the manufacture and dissemination of news increasingly becomes the preserve of the major corporations, it becomes even more important to jump into the public arena, particularly the part of the arena dedicated to electoral politics. Whether progressives devote their resources to fighting on within the Democratic Party or to taking it outside by joining the Greens matters less than their decision to shun the comfy chair. I would like some of those 25 districts to end up in Green hands, but in the absence of Green candidates that hardly seems likely.
However, we can hope that Jill Stein's candidacy will have a coat-tails effect and encourage Green activists not simply to support the gubernatorial campaign but to run for office themselves.
And this is definitely the year to run. Just as in Britain, here in Massachusetts the importance of the climate issue (an issue we should own lock, stock, and barrel) is starting to fade among the general public, giving climate-solution activists an even greater incentive to push it back where it belongs, i.e. front and center. If our voice is not in the electoral mix we leave the debate to ExxonMobil and their little denialist helpers in the Republican Party and to the the Wall Street dice-rollers and their Democratic allies.
So what's my proposal for countering the fossil-fool propaganda and calling out the carbon-trader hucksters? Go to town or city hall, pull nomination papers for state rep, and run Green. Or persuade a friend to run.
Anything but the comfy chair.