It was worth staying up until 2 a.m. on election night to hear Barack Obama’s victory speech. The brother sure can bring it when he is inspired.
Now it’s time for the climate and progressive movements to do our job as citizens and demand that he do the same on climate. It’s time, long past time, for Barack Obama to break his own self-imposed silence on climate.
When did this silence begin? A piece in last week’s Guardian newspaper reminded me of how far back it goes, to a meeting the White House organized for leaders of environmental groups in March of 2009 at the Old Executive Office building next to the White House. At the meeting, according to the Guardian, aides to Obama made it clear that they did not plan to talk much about climate and wanted their supporters to do the same
As participant Betsy Taylor put it: “’What was communicated in the presentation was: ‘This is what you talk about, and don't talk about climate change,'" Taylor said. "I took away an absolutely clear understanding that we should focus on clean energy jobs and the potential of a clean energy economy rather than the threat of climate change. The message stuck. Subsequent campaigns from the Obama administration and some environmental groups relegated climate change to a second-tier concern.”
And now here we are, at the end of a year which has seen epic drought, record-breaking heat waves, extensive forest fires, alarming Arctic sea ice melt and Superstorm Sandy. It is clear that we are now in a new normal as far as our climate and weather.
As NY Governor Andrew Cuomo said, some parts of the country are experiencing “100 year storms every couple of years.”
Working with others, I did everything I could up to the very end to break the silence during the Presidential election campaign. By and large, we failed as far as the candidates and the debates. Even after Sandy, Romney said nothing about climate change in his speeches and Obama said very little.
However, our “end the silence” campaign did succeed in building buzz in the media about this huge, distressing dynamic. And it’s absolutely essential that we keep building that buzz, keep building the pressure, make it impossible for the Obama administration not to speak up and take action on the rapidly deepening and most important issue human civilization has ever faced.
What the world needs is for father Barack Obama—concerned citizen Barack Obama, man of history Barack Obama—to internalize that his legacy, how history and future generations remember him, will be completely bound up with what he does or does not do going forward on this issue.
Open and strong leadership from Obama on climate will be a political winner for those politicians who make this a top issue, as numerous polls this year have shown.
And the world, including many of its political leaders, would respond positively to version 2.0 of the Obama administration’s approach in the international arena. The world is crying out, almost literally, for smart, determined and visionary leadership on the climate crisis.
Starting today, let’s do all in our power, let’s come together as a movement, to help our re-elected President rise to the demands of history, our wounded planet and the needs of human society. We literally can’t accept anything less.