Thinking about our cold weather (3 this morning when we got up) and lack of water since 1 am Thursday morning when our pipes froze got me thinking about the fact that we are still incredibly fortunate to be living in southeastern AZ, which for the most part is much more temperate than huge swaths of the country. And, of course, to be living in the U.S., which has advantages most of the world does not.
But it got me thinking about another issue, too--which is that, for decades, climatologists have been warning that severe weather events would be a symptom of global climate change (or the inaccurately named global warming). And for decades, progress on dealing with the problem has been blocked by the climate change deniers--not for reasons of science, which is inescapable; one only has to look at the statistics to see that we're getting overall warmer, the polar ice caps are melting, and the severe weather events are becoming more common--but for reasons of politics, mostly, it seems, out of some sense that to actively seek to prevent further warming would be somehow "liberal" and therefore bad. It certainly is not economically advantageous to allow the problem to worsen, for all sorts of reasons--not least because this January's bad weather has put a crimp in any hopes of climbing out of our unemployment woes.
Those stories are going to become ever more common if we don't get a handle on this. We could have started decades ago, before things reached this stage, but we didn't, largely because of those deniers and their ability to block action. It's time for the deniers to accept reality, to stop standing in the way of humane progress for reasons of outdated ideology.
This shares some commonalities with the ongoing battle over health care reform. The truth is that people are dying (45,000 Americans a year, according to one major study) because they can't get adequate health insurance. People are going bankrupt for the same reason. Imagine you were one of the victims of the Tucson shooting, suddenly faced with enormous health care costs because you were at the wrong Safeway on the wrong morning. Those people are getting assistance, but that's largely because their case was in all the headlines. Someone whose car is slammed into by a driver who didn't stop at a red light, or who gets sick because she crossed paths with the wrong person, might not be so lucky. Health insurance companies aren't in the business of making people well, they're in the business of making money by selling a product that sometimes, almost incidentally, makes people well. So we need to reform our health care system, to make sure that all Americans can get decent coverage that will keep them alive and out of the poor house. And again, some people are blocking this for purely ideological reasons. Most of the so-called Obamacare bill came originally from Republicans--the universal mandate, the whole Romneycare structure--but now Republicans are vowing to obstruct it, stop it, repeal it. What they're really saying is that it's more important to keep Obama from winning favor with the public--to give them a better shot in 2012--than it is to save lives and bank accounts. The law has some problems, and they should be fixed, but the progress that has been made should not be overturned.
Unless a person is a racist or an ageist or some other kind of "ist" who believes that one category of humans is fundamentally more valuable than the rest, I don't understand how it's okay to continue blocking action on climate change, or to continue trying to block reform of our destructive health care system. People are dying. Our brother and sister human beings are dying. Don't we owe it to them to try to help?