A Clean Energy Revolution

Several years ago I heard a prominent progressive leader make a statement to the effect that he didn’t have time to be discouraged in the face of all that’s wrong in this world. Lucky him.

But I didn’t, and still don’t, believe him. Anyone who doesn’t sometimes lose heart, wonder if the human race will make it to a new world of justice and peace, peace with each other and with our mother earth, isn’t being honest with themselves.

The reality of the climate crisis makes our situation even more dire and can feed these feelings of discouragement. There is a very real prospect that, absent a deep and broad clean energy revolution, we will see within our lifetimes a massive disruption of human society throughout the world–above and beyond the widespread structural injustice and poverty that already exists–via floods, major storms, rising sea levels, large-scale refugee movements, droughts, deforestation, and a major decline in food production.

We don’t have decades to turn this around, we have years, according to the world’s scientists. Realistically, it is already too late to avoid some significant negative effects of global warming. But there are unquestionably actions that can be taken, and which are being taken, to deal with this crisis. Depending upon what we in the United States do, it is possible that our descendants will be able to look back on the first part of the 21st century as the time in history when humankind rose up in a united way to affirm its right to survive in opposition to the fossil fuel industry and their bought politicians.

Many countries throughout the world are serious about energy conservation and are already transitioning to clean energy sources. A number of state and local governments in the USA are doing the same, to a limited extent. But even though the United States generates 25% of the world’s greenhouse gases, the Bush administration is doing worse than nothing; it is actively attempting to undercut efforts to strengthen the Kyoto Protocol, signed so far by 141 countries.

For those who are feeling discouraged about these realities, yesterday’s March 10th New York Times brought good news. Under a headline, “Evangelical Leaders Swing Influence Behind Effort to Combat Global Warming,” a major article by Laurie Goodstein reported that, “A core group of influential evangelical leaders has put its considerable political power behind a cause that has barely registered on the evangelical agenda, fighting global warming. These church leaders, scientists, writers and heads of international aid agencies argue that global warming is an urgent threat, a cause of poverty and a Christian issue because the Bible mandates stewardship of God’s creation.”

The article goes on to quote Rev. Rich Cizik, vice president of governmental affairs for the National Association of Evangelicals, saying “I don’t think God is going to ask us how he created the earth, but he will ask us what we did with what he created.”

This is no small piece of news. Combined with the publicly stated concerns about global warming put forward by a number of Republican “moderate” U.S. Senators like Chuck Hagel, Lincoln Chafee and Olympia Stowe, this growing understanding among conservative evangelicals provides grounds for hope that, even over these next four years, the U.S. can begin to take action with the rest of the world to reverse global warming.

But the situation is urgent, and too many progressives either don’t realize its urgency or, if they do, aren’t responding appropriately. There is a desperate need for a massive, visible movement of people demonstrating in the streets for a clean energy revolution that can also be a major community development and job-creation program for low-income and working-class communities. Moving rapidly to clean energy is a viable alternative to the neo-conservatives’ plans to dominate the oil-producing countries of the world via war and repression, an alternative that our peoples will support.

This is an issue that affects us all. It is one which demands that we overcome parochial and turf-driven approaches to political organizing and instead find new ways of working, the development of broad, activist alliances. For our children, grandchildren and the seven generations to come, we must rise to the occasion.