It’s painfully ironic that Dagwood Bumstead finally got around to celebrating Earth Day today, by napping instead of mowing the lawn, at the same time Earth Day became more of a wake than anything to celebrate. Thanks to our brain-dead media and bought-off politicians in both parties, fewer Americans than at any time since the 1970′s give a tinker’s damn whether or not our planet turns into an uninhabitable, sweltering, toxic cesspool.
The false equation of environmental protection and economic doom has become so embedded in our media narrative that we have gone from Richard Nixon waxing poetic about “healing the earth” to Barack Obama chest-thumping about “all of the above” and historically high domestic production of ruinous and dwindling fossil fuels.
While most see it as a good thing that we no longer have rivers catching fire and cities like Los Angeles choking under eye-burning smog half of the year, we do have flammable faucets, freak floods and tornadoes, human-induced seismicity, record droughts and wildfires, and the entire Gulf of Mexico ecosystem and its fisheries irreparably damaged by a single oil spill.
With one political party, the Republicans, officially and proudly dedicated to all forms of environmental destruction, and the Democrats offering only the weakest resistance, Americans who actually care about future generations are routinely dismissed as granola-crunching Luddites at best, and anti-capitalist saboteurs at worst.
What happened, since the iconic TV commercial of the tear-shedding Indian helped make the heedless polluting of America a bipartisan crisis and call to action? In a word, corruption. First, the corruption of a political party so bereft of ideas that it had to turn to America’s worst industries to finance its ruthless quest for power. Second, the corruption of the “news” media, increasingly owned by fewer and more environmentally compromised corporations and hobbled by shrinking resources and a demented devotion to “balance.” Finally, the corruption of a political system so dominated by big money that neither party is willing to rock the boat, even if said boat ends up floating through the canyons of Wall Street; the Venice of the next century.
Perhaps it was fitting, then, that BP’s CEO went sailing even as Deepwater Horizon befouled the Gulf; in the future, the rich will undoubtedly need sailing skills. And Mitt Romney’s car elevator will eventually come in handy, too, if only to keep the Pacific out of his Cadillac(s) cup-holders. But it is something of a mystery as to why those with the most to lose from rising seas and extreme weather, be they tornado alley dwellers, desert denizens, or wealthy residents of waterfront property, are so indifferent, if not outright hostile, to any measures meant to reverse such obvious and alarming threats.
Our fear-driven political system, it seems, encourages us to fear imagined things while blithely ignoring real things, thus exacerbating both. Our fear of terrorism is manipulated to ultimately create more of it; our fear of crime produces more incarceration, declining civility, and gun violence; our fear of economic uncertainty leads us to take measures that make it inevitable, and on and on. Meanwhile, legitimate fears over which we might have some control, like pollution and climate change, are paradoxically turned into fear, and even hatred, of those who would attempt to alleviate them.
In such an upside-down world, Earth Day still exists, but only in the funny pages.