An Earth that does not kill: A reflection on Newt Gingrich’s silly, unserious question

I had a strong negative reaction to Newt Gingrich’s recent claim that it is pure hubris for climate advocates to work to mitigate climate change.

Why my strong reaction?
1) He appeared to take by surprise the other panelists for a split second, and (2) as result of that effect, I suspect that we’ll be hearing this silly question thrown around by the Right and other climate deniers for a while, distracting us from the real, more urgent dialogue around how to work together to prevent unnecessary further loss of life from climate change-related events.

He asked, “What’s the right temperature…for the planet?”

My short answer: bad question. Asking and answering his question does not inspire the right dialogue; it evades it.

Governance requires a line of thinking more grounded in the imperatives of public welfare. Clearly, arriving at a consensus on the right temperature, while I guess important, is beside the point when the immediate need is a pragmatic policy framework and public dialogue that work to prevent climate-related loss of life and property, something that continues to happen needlessly.

On CNNs GPS recently in June 2014, the President Anote Tong of Kiribati lamented that it is too late for many of his people whose islands have been swallowed up by rising seawater. From that interview, what I remember the most is him saying, “[It] is already too late for us…we are working together collectively with the countries in the (sic) like situation, Tuvalu, the Marshall Islands, the Maldives, where the impact of climate change is about total annihilation of … our nations.” You can watch the interview and read the transcript here.

How have we allowed our world to get so sick that it is now its own destroyer???

Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson recently said that if the wealthy start losing money from climate change, things will change for the better at the policy level. I disagree. Regardless of what the elite chooses to do, those of us who have solutions with even the most remote chance of success should act. Ordinary people need to change, mostly in how they see themselves as non-actors in this global issue. Climate change solutions need to be as personal as its negative impacts which are many and varied depending on where one lives.

I see climate change as an all-encompassing mega issue that wraps together so many others that have haunted us for generations: Poverty, North-South power imbalance, Group marginalization, Community empowerment, to name a few.

The vulnerability to its impacts that we share is shaped by these underlying issues, which are all too familiar. To be actors in climate work, therefore, in part means being solution-oriented toward all the familiar barriers to social justice and human development.

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