Jill Stein holds a unique distinction among candidates in the 2016 presidential race, and no I’m not talking about the fact that she’s the only candidate who has never been a Republican. Jill Stein is the only candidate with a sane environmental stance. We urgently need to implement the drastic changes her platform calls for, or something very similar, if we’re going to avert climate catastrophe in the coming decades.
We’re in trouble here, America. Our planet is overheating fast, and the speed with which it’s heating up looks likely to get faster, not slower, unless we make immediate, radical changes in our environmental policy. Military leaders have been calling climate change a major risk to national security, and now NASA is describing record lows in arctic sea ice as the new normal as we see month after month of record lows in ice cover for that time of year.
Arctic ice is our planet’s air conditioner, as we rely on that cold white surface area not just to help keep the oceans cool, but to reflect the sun’s radiation back into space during the summer. Shrinking ice cover means less reflective surface area, which means less sunlight gets reflected back into space, and more of its heat gets absorbed into the increased darker surface area. The less ice cover, the more the planet heats up. The more the planet heats up, the faster the ice cover shrinks. The warming effect actually exacerbates itself and speeds itself up.
Another comparable phenomenon is the way methane gas has recently begun pouring into the earth’s atmosphere from thawing arctic permafrost and from destabilized methane hydrates under the sea. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas which in the short term has a warming effect roughly 30 times greater than carbon. As the arctic heats up and thaws out, more methane is released into the atmosphere from the permafrost and hydrates. The more methane there is in the atmosphere, the faster the arctic heats up and thaws out.
These self-reinforcing warming effects are called positive feedback loops, which can cause warming to accelerate rapidly in a non-linear way, causing climate chaos which will wreak havoc on agriculture and rising sea levels which will displace hundreds of millions of people, even if humans begin making changes to their impact on the environment. I’ve just named two of these self-reinforcing feedback loops. There are dozens of them.
It’s a state of emergency. The time for drastic action is now, but there’s only one presidential candidate who’s not living in a fantasy land. Donald Trump wants to deny climate change altogether and pretend it’s a conspiracy cooked up by the Chinese. Fracking advocate Hillary Clinton claims to respect science but extends her love of small, incremental changes to her too little, too late environmental policy. Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson wants to leave environmental concerns to the magical free market economy fairy, whose omniscient wisdom will surely carry us to ecosystemic harmony.
Jill Stein has proposed what she calls a Green New Deal, named for the massive expansion of government programs under Franklin D. Roosevelt wherein many jobs were created in the public sector to stimulate the economy and bring an end to the Great Depression. She wants to officially declare a state of emergency, create 20 million new jobs in the renewable energy sector, and enact a “wartime-scale” effort to get our nation 100 percent energy independent on renewable energy by 2030 and lead humanity into a new relationship with this planet.
There’s no sane reason to believe that this cannot be done. In fact, it’s insane to believe that it can’t or shouldn’t be done. When Pearl Harbor was bombed our nation had close to zero percent of its GDP going to wartime production. In six months, 25 percent of our GDP was pouring into winning World War II, thanks to the massive, intensive collaboration of Americans in overcoming that emergency. When the space race began during the Cold War with the Soviet Union, the technology to put a man on the moon did not exist, but we resolved to do it anyway. In less than ten years, we succeeded.
There’s no valid reason to say that we can’t put this kind of effort into saving our ecosystem from disaster and our species from extinction. Are you really going to tell me that we can come together to kill people but not to save them? Are you really going to tell me that we can spend many times more money and resources on our military than any other nation, but we can’t instead turn around and spend it protecting the ecosystemic context in which our species evolved and upon which we depend on for survival? That we can only put large-scale urgent effort into doing stupid things, but not wise ones?
This is an intelligence test, people. I believe we have the freedom to fail it and that no magical free market fairy is going to save us if we do. But I also believe we have the ability to pass this test by collaborating together, and in so doing change not just our arctic ice cover trends, but also what it means to be human. We’ll have to cast aside a lot of our leftover monkey residue and transcend a lot of vestigial evolutionary gunk in order to evolve beyond our fears and enmity enough to come together and collaborate as a whole, but we’re coming up to evolve-or-die time now.
[Image via Shutterstock]