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The Politically Toxic Environment

The Politically Toxic Environment

Regardless of who you voted for or what you were feeling after election night, there was one big loser on Tuesday night, one that spent the last several months being kicked to the curb. I am talking about the environment.

Up until New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s surprise announcement less than a week before the general election, the environment wasn’t on either of the Presidential candidates’ agendas or in any talking points. Why is it that the environment, the preservation of which is essential to ensure that human life can survive on this planet, became the proverbial elephant in the room? And why is it the elephant was only given due attention after it went on a rampage causing $50 billion in damage to the East Coast?

I am not sure we will ever know the full answer to that question, but I think part of the problem is the way Americans today choose to seek out information. As was pointed out in Aaron Sorkin’s HBO series “The Newsroom,” people choose the facts they like. Herein lies the real problem facing us today. We cannot work to preserve the environment if we do not embrace the facts. The climate is changing, humans are responsible, and the costs counted in human and economic capital will continue to mount.

As a Jew, there are two major concerns I have with this reality. First, we are taught through our traditions and ancient Jewish teachers to be guardians of the environment. We were given this planet as a partner to build with, not a resource to exploit. Second, ideology cannot trump reality. I love a respectfully engaging and even argumentative discussion. If you do not believe me, ask my sister, my friends, or classmates. Growing up in a household and extended family full of Jews, I am used to there being more opinions than people at the dinner table. We may fight, play devil’s advocate or even outright take the provocatively controversial position because it is fun, but these discussions are intellectually engaging particularly because we are all working with the same set of facts.

The facts of climate change are real and we cannot continue to deny them. We should have a lively and substantive debate about how we deal with these facts and what we need to do to mitigate the effects of climate change, but we cannot continue to talk past each other by questioning irrefutable, scientific fact. As we continue to rebuild our economy, we must take care to build it upon a foundation that will not erode our environment and make the planet untenable for all of us.

With the next four years and the next few months in particular as we grapple with restructuring our tax system and evaluate who receives tax deductions, we need to make sure we continue to help our renewable energy industries as they mature and become a greater and more dynamic part of our energy grid.

Image Courtesy of All pollUtion proBlem.

Published: 11/09/2012

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