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Our Political Climate is in Crisis

Updated: Jul 1


Like the natural world, the world of politics changes temperature depending on its climate.  The current heat waves, fires, and floods appear to have their counterpart in the political world of threats, lies, and lawlessness.  It seems clearer than ever that we will not have the will to address our environmental crisis, until we address our political crisis. 


Not much matches the frequent silence about our climate crisis, in spite of its daily evidence, than the denial of our political crisis.  On Thursday, CNN will host a presidential debate between two men who are treated has having equal status as presidential candidates.  It’s a normal presidential debate just like it’s a normal summer. Temperature records are being broken, lies are being told, and it is election season again.


True, the debate will be without an audience, and mikes will be muted so the contestants cannot interrupt each other, but other than that it’s a normal debate.  The political climate, however, is anything but normal.


We have never had a debate like this before.  What should we call it: “The bully and the gentleman,” or “The careful and the reckless.” 


Just as we ignore the continual warming of the planet at our peril, so also do we ignore the changes in our political climate.  Instead of increasing our sense of a civic space based on a shared humanity, we are moving further away from a climate of justice where past injustices would not be ignored but repaired.


It’s a mistake to respond to this threat by only protecting the status quo.  The climate of injustice we inherited from our past has not yet been corrected.  Instead of merely defending our civic space, we need to improve it by making it more inclusive, equal, and reparative. 


Let’s face it.  Justice—based on human dignity—has never been a major part of our national narrative.  It has never reached the status of freedom, domination, competition, or prosperity.  (It’s “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”  Not justice.) 


The 14th Amendment changed that.  “Equal protection under the law” created the promise of a climate of justice: a civic sphere based on equal dignity.  A promise we need to redeem.


And we need to do it now.  As I argued in A Climate of Justice, we will never develop an adequate response to our environmental crisis until we begin to repair our social injustices. They are two sides of the same coin.  How about a “coin of the realm” that would show how justice and sustainability belong together.  Creating such a coin could symbolize an improvement in our political climate.






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1 Comment

Another fine, clear, persuasive reflection. Environment and the social--justice and sustainablilty, two sides of the same coin. "coin of the realm" -- perfect image! Thanks! Sharon

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