Diving in - Part 4 - Other pressing issues
Climate change, covid, equality, race, and immigration
As I’ve mentioned in my previous “diving in” posts, I felt compelled to write a series laying down some markers about where I’m coming from in preparation for more regular writing about current affairs. My first post was about my approach to journalism. Post two was about our broken politics and the collection of crises the US faces. Post three was about the beginning of the Cold War II, this time with China. In this post I want to quickly cover what I see as other critical issues of the time.
We must do something to slow down and reverse climate change. That’s why I was proud to play a very tiny part in helping to pass a new climate and equity law in Illinois - the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act. (And I when say tiny, I mean it. I’m awed by the years that climate and equity activists spent working to get this law passed. I’m just glad I was able to be part of the effort.) This story from David Roberts is an excellent wrap-up of the legislation and the politics surrounding it. Of course, we truly need national and international action, but if state action is the best we can do for now, then it needs done.
Besides the obvious climate and equity provisions, two elements of the law appealed to me, in particular. There are programs to help those currently working the fossil fuel energy sector to switch to new careers. This is knowns as “just transition”. I feel this is so critical. Also, it kept Illinois’ nuclear plants in place for now - even if this was a bitter pill to swallow given the bribery scandal involving the plants’ parent company.
Look, I would ultimately prefer to phase out nuclear. But it’s a reliable, stable energy source that doesn’t produce greenhouse gas emissions. We desperately need sources like this as we switch to renewables. It’s a fact that wind and solar can’t be turned on and off at our whim. And politically speaking, the transition to renewables will be stopped dead in its tracks if we sacrifice the reliability of the electricity supply. Eventually there might be technological developments that help us address these issues, and I do think that, fundamentally, our energy future is a technology problem. But we have to work with what we have now. And we have to act fast to transition to renewables as much as we can.
By the way, when it comes to climate and environmental issues, I always return in my mind to this comic from Joel Pett, first published in USA Today in 2009:
Seriously, what are we waiting for?
I’m going to keep this section short, which is pretty easy since the basic message is go get vaccinated!
Now, having said that, I do think the world is going to have to start transitioning to living with covid as an endemic disease. It’s not that we throw all caution to the wind, of course. (See: vaccinated, go get). But more normalcy is going to have to be restored. Perhaps newer therapeutics will be game-changers in this regard.
Two more quick thoughts: One, it is astonishing and sad how tied the coronavirus and coronavirus response became tied to partisan politics in the US. Two, given the societal tumult caused by a virus with a fairly low case fatality rate, just imagine next time when it’s “the big one”…
Equality and race
Actually, I’m going to keep this section and the next one brief, as well. I’ll explore these issues and explain myself more completely in future posts.
I think the easiest way to give a thumbnail sketch of my position here is to say I’m definitely not “woke”, but I also believe racism and racial disparities are a genuine problem.
It’s trite to say - and often criticized by people on the left today - but Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words remain inspirational to me:
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
How can this not be the goal? We cannot ignore race, of course. We don’t live in that society yet. But neither can we embrace a fully racialized society where that’s all we see. It’s too early to give up on the dream.
Let me wrap up with immigration. Again, my position is pretty simple - let’s have more of it. We will benefit morally, geopolitically, and economically.
As is often said, we are a nation of immigrants (which treated the native population and forced immigrants atrociously, by the way), and we should continue to be. In the US, we like to think that we uphold special values and aspirations, traditionally represented, of course, by the Declaration of Independence:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
If we truly believe these are universal values, then we should gladly welcome anyone willing to come here and live by them.
Doing so would also strengthen our geopolitical position against the rising authoritarian model represented by China.
Finally, it’s clear that we need more people to work jobs here in the US. We need to establish a system by which more people can come here to work legally. I’m not suggesting we make citizenship easy to get. But we can solve a significant economic problem relatively easily by recruiting from a globe that would gladly join us.
One more post
Okay, I have one more post to go in this series. It’s my attempt at solutions to some of the dangers and problems I’ve highlighted in the previous posts. As I mentioned before - spoiler alert - I don’t have any one idea on really what will solve our current crises. But I will attempt an answer.