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Independence From Terror

Posted on Jul 4, 2013
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By Subhankar Banerjee, Climate Story Tellers

(Page 3)

What I just discussed is the political reason why ‘supporters cheer’ and ‘apologists veer,’ but there is a larger insidious reason, and it is—sociological.

It is easy to criticize the other. It is much more difficult to criticize one’s own. This is true at a macroscopic level (nation to nation) and also at a microscopic level (one family to another).

Take for example, domestic violence: it is easy to say that domestic violence “is going on in my neighbor’s house” than to acknowledge “is happening in my own home.” Similarly, it is easy for the US government to announce: “China is spying on the US” than to acknowledge “US is spying on its own citizens and everyone else.” This issue is particularly pronounced in the US.

In her concise yet immensely thought–provoking book, Regarding the Pain of Others Susan Sontag wrote:


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Americans prefer to picture the evil that was there, and from which the United States—a unique nation, one without any certifiably wicked leaders throughout its entire history—is exempt. That this country, like every other country, has its tragic past does not sit well with the founding, and still all–powerful, belief in American exceptionalism.

Climate change is not a Democrat or Republican issue and its solution (if there ever will be one) does not involve cheerleading of Democrats.

Now I’ll turn to critics’ spear.

* * *

To understand the true intent of Obama’s speech I begin with AlterNet senior environmental editor Tara Lohan’s article, “Obama Uses Major Climate Speech to Cheerlead for Natural Gas Industry; Keystone XL Fate Still Undecided.” She recognizes that “Obama’s speech will likely be met with cheers and jeers, even in the environmental community.” She first acknowledges the “cheer” part and then throws a solid 400–lb punch and points out the “hypocrisy of Obama’s allegiance to the gas industry and his pledge to fight climate change”:

It’s hard to imagine that Obama has ever visited with communities who are in the crosshairs of natural gas extraction—a process that has proven already to be anything but clean and safe. And yet Obama promised to “strengthen our position as a top natural gas producer” and even to use our private sector to help other countries “transition to natural gas.” This translates to exporting fracking worldwide—a process already underway in Poland, South Africa, Australia and other countries.

It’s all the more remarkable, because these words didn’t come from a writer/editor sitting in her ergonomically uncomfortable chair and throwing out some angry words. It came from someone who is reporting from the field now. Tara is traveling across North America documenting communities impacted by energy development for a new AlterNet project, Hitting Home. This is what I’d call—good environmental journalism that includes honest criticism.

Next, if you’re looking for an in–depth socio–ecological analysis of Obama’s speech, take a look at Professor Chris Williams’ essay “Mass Protest, Not A Speech, Is Needed To Address Climate Change” that I published on About the Democrat–Republican ping–pong match, Williams wrote:

And on the ground, where people are forced to deal with the growing ramifications of climate change and the disruption and cost to their lives, the picture is very different. As reported in a recent survey of self–described Republicans and Republican–leaning independents, 62 percent said the U.S. should address climate change, and 77 percent said that the U.S. should use more renewable energy sources. This is all the more remarkable given that virtually no political representative from either party has been arguing for these things, and they have certainly not appeared on the TV screens or in the newspapers of the mainstream media.

And about relying on politicians to solve the climate crisis, Williams wrote:

The biosphere of which humans are a part cannot afford half measures or rely on dubious “friends” in high places. Nor can we set our sights any lower than the swift dismantling of the fossil–fuel infrastructure of death and its replacement with publicly owned and democratically controlled clean energy systems.

Lastly, if you’re looking for a good example of thoughtful criticism of the environmental policies being perpetuated by a head of state, look no further than Canadian journalist Andrew Nikiforuk’s most biting critique of Prime Minister of Canada Stephen Harper’s devastating energy policy. In his essay, “Oh, Canada: How America’s Friendly Northern Neighbor Became a Rogue, Reckless Petrostate,” in the July/August issue of Foreign Policy Nikiforuk wrote:

More than a decade ago, American political scientist Terry Lynn Karl crudely summed up the dysfunction of petrostates: Countries that become too dependent on oil and gas riches behave like plantation economies that rely on “an unsustainable development trajectory fueled by an exhaustible resource” whose revenue streams form “an implacable barrier to change.” And that’s what happened to Canada while you weren’t looking. Shackled to the hubris of a leader who dreams of building a new global energy superpower, the Boy Scout is now slave to his own greed.

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