Letters to the editor June 24 to 30
We are told that the election of now-disgraced former President Trump heralded the rise of populism in the United States, driven by seething resentments of the elite class. But “populism” is an abstraction that too easily hides the actors who give it its real force. Those actors include the political class of radical Republicans at local, state and federal levels. Some are cunning and strategic, many are unprincipled cowards. But our country minimizes and rationalizes their actions at its peril. The events of just the last couple of months demonstrate the depth and reach of their radicalism.
Make no mistake about the gravest threats to our country. Republican radicals are a bomb whose timer is ticking.
Just as the impact of the automobile largely helped turn oats from horse feed into an iconic American breakfast, great climatic and consequent social changes can be absorbed and subtly ripple through society quietly, hardly leaving a noticeable trace. When the necessities of WWII required strong and powerful women to take demanding industrial jobs that were formerly held by men, almost overnight, thousands of “Rosie the Riveter” women were there to help with the American war effort. In the post-WWII years, almost magically, these heroines quietly disappeared back into more “feminine” roles. Absent war-time needs, there were starkly different norms for women.
Today, the American west is hotter and drier than it has ever been, and it is very early in the summer. Unquestionably, the ravages of climate change are driving the 117-degree Arizona temperatures, the potential second degree burns that await skin contact with sunbaked asphalt and the lowest level (36 percent) of water in Lake Mead (behind Hoover Dam) since first it was filled in the 1930s (New York Times, June 17, 2021).
Climate deniers offer little discussion of these and most extreme climate developments other than to doubt the science (reality). Nonetheless, eventually, it is quite likely that power outages, burning acreage and towns, climate-driven human migration, rising seas and increasingly dwindling fresh water resources will force everyone to finally get behind action to mitigate climate extremes and perhaps even fundamentally change our approach to energy and transportation. We will embrace radically different modes, and hopefully, not very long after, when real climate progress is made, few will remember who was on what side of the debate. Likely, by then, that will no longer matter much.
Largely, it was oil that made 20th century industry possible. In the distant future, people may be aghast at the notion that we actually set fire to a volatile and explosive liquid to produce power for our society, which, consequently, devastated the planet. Politicians take heed: Time is not on our side to fix this.