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Can’t afford the distractions

Climate change needs all our attention

“Where were they? Why didn’t the United States of America lead in cutting greenhouse gas emissions and preventing the devastating damage that the scientific community was sure would come?”

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders asked that question as he and California Sen. Barbara Boxer proposed a climate-change bill: the most comprehensive legislation ever to stop global warming. Sanders was imagining an indictment by future generations of the fools who lived in the 20th and early 21st century — those who refused to take action against certain environmental catastrophe, but were embroiled instead in squabbles about contraception, same-sex marriage, questions of “legitimate rape” and the introduction of bills to make even the accidental exposure of the female nipple a felony, unless that offensive body part had previously been protected by pasties or patches of duct tape.

Yes, as if things could not get more absurd in the prurient world of the conservative mind, that latter proposition was introduced in a bill by state Sen. Rayne Brown in North Carolina. Brown’s bill would make it a Class H felony to expose “… the nipple, or any portion of the areola, of the human female breast.” Male nipples are exempt.

North Carolina’s Nipple-exposure Committee Chairwoman Rep. Sarah Stevens said “… using pasties or other nipple coverings would protect those women against prosecution (in the event of a wardrobe malfunction),” which Rep. Tim Moore suggests might be yet one more use of America’s universal fix-it, duct tape.

No, really.

In light of the real imminent crises that face us, North Carolina’s attention to the female nipple indicates a malfunction more serious than accidental, or even intentional toplessness. Yet Republicans press on.

But Sanders is not from North Carolina, he’s from the only state in the union that recognizes that a socialist may be more clear thinking and intellectually aware than a congress full of tea party troglodytes.

California’s (a female with nipples herself) is not one to be distracted by inanities and signed onto Sanders’ bill saying she did so because it’s “the gold standard.” Boxer, like Sanders, can read a CO2 sequestration graph, and understands that melting glaciers and hugely calving Antarctic ice sheets have profound implications that need to be immediately addressed.

As one poet wryly notes: “Pull up a chair / and watch the glacier melt / but put it on pontoons / or wear a speedo, ’cause / the glacier is becoming svelte / and oceans will be rising soon.

Brown’s bill may be a laughing matter but Sanders’ is not. In fact, as Sanders pointed out in his news conference explaining the bill, “The leading scientists in the world who study climate change now tell us that their projections in the past were wrong; that, in fact, the crisis facing our planet is much more serious than they had previously believed,” — and more serious by far than the breast bill of North Carolina or most of the “issues” Congress (especially congressional Republicans) has its head buried in.

Bill McKibben, noted environmentalist, said of the bill’s creators: “Sens. Sanders and Boxer actually understand the depth of the climate problem we face … We hope and trust that they won’t have to be a lone voice.”

McKibben said this just one day after his arrest at a White House protest on a controversial oil pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico which is itself another potential ecological catastrophe being foisted on us by giant energy corporations and a government that’s supposed to be of, by, and for us.

Politicians wander around D.C., bumping into doors, being stupid, callous, fretful, deceitful, duplicitous and ruthless about fiscal cliffs, debt limits, and budget sequestration without an apparent clue or concern about the environmental cliff, planetary absorption limits, and atmospheric CO2 sequestration that will sooner rather than later eclipse their self-serving blathering and make it moot.

Sometimes I think we’re victims of inertia. That having begun our long trek from Eden (or primordial ooze as some suspect) and having picked up implacable speed, we’re whizzing to the end-times in a machine of our own making unable to apply the brakes because we’ve preferred to not build them in. And, although some, like Sanders, would like to get to work on brake disks and shoes, we dismiss them as do-gooder socialist renegades that have fallen off the mechanism.

So, what about that question Sanders asked on behalf of our grandchildren?

“Where were they (meaning us)?”

Where we are is out to lunch, being fatally obsessed with apprehensions about females, rather than planetary anatomy — among other sensational, politically motivated non-issues.

Where we are is into self-serving disregard of our children’s future.

Culleny lives in Shelburne Falls, works in construction, is a singer/songwriter, and has done commentary for National Public Radio. His email address is jimculleny@comcast.net.

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