Election Day – Think Big!

I usually publish this blog on Tuesdays but this time I have asked my editor to put up the week’s post today so that I can address everyone – including my Monday class of 150 students – a day before the election.

Two events inspired me to write this post:

One was an exchange with a 25-year-old friend who is now a student in medical school. She is much more liberal than I am and we discussed the upcoming elections. She proclaimed that she was not going to vote. We discussed her reasons. Her main point was her strong belief that her vote would not change anything and that furthermore, nothing short of a “revolution” could bring about real change. As it happened, I had just seen a new play (The Niceties) that responds to the same premise.

The other cue was Glenn Thrush’s  New York Times piece that I shared on social media:

CAMILLA, Ga. — Renee Moss was standing in her ruined cotton field, boot-toeing a fallen boll that looked like a dirty snowball and debating her husband, Clayton, about how maybe, just maybe, Hurricane Michael was a result of climate change.

“Nope,” was the immediate response from Mr. Moss, a third-generation farmer in rural Mitchell County, where the storm’s 100-mile-per-hour winds last week destroyed a robust cotton crop at the precise moment when the bolls were fattest, fluffiest and set to be harvested.

A few minutes earlier, Mr. Moss’s insurance broker had told him that his losses were likely to be in the 80 to 100 percent range, the same faced by nearly every other farmer in this part of southwest Georgia. The area, which was directly in the path of the storm, is one of the largest bastions of multigenerational family farming in the country, and a major national producer of cotton, peanuts, sweet corn, pine timber and poultry.

“Look, I know the storms are making it unsustainable. If what’s happened this year happens next year, we’re done,” Mr. Moss, 38, told his wife. “But we’ve always had bad weather. Is it getting worse? Have we had three bad years in a row? Yeah. But I’m worried about the weather, not about climate change.”

I have emphasized the last two sentences because they speak to the heart of the matter. The rest I simply included for background. In a move that likely echoed my own sentiment, the NYT “honored” this bit as a “quote of the day.”

I am not sure if Mr. Moss has fully realized the connections and differences between weather and climate but (at least to me) his disconnect reflected a central quandary of this election: how to reconnect the “big picture” with individual constituents.

Climate change is not necessarily the central topic of this election but there are some local climate change issues that will be decided tomorrow.

Only half of the nation’s Millennials voted in the 2016 election. I wrote two blogs here that together sum up the essence of this year’s election. I’m citing the relevant sections to hopefully help frame our collective decision-making process for Tuesday:

From my October 2, 2018 blog featuring NPR’s interview with Greg Myre about his book, “‘America First’: From Charles Lindbergh to President Trump”:

Before the Pearl Harbor attack, Lindbergh and his followers were isolationists. According to Mr. Myre, that term does not apply to President Trump. He quotes Trump’s inauguration speech:

“From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. From this day forward, it’s going to be only America first, America first,” Trump said at his inaugural on Jan. 20.

Mr. Myre instead defines the president’s philosophy in the following way:

Trump is more commonly described as a unilateralist — someone who thinks the U.S. can be engaged around the world, but on its own terms, unconstrained by alliances or multinational groups like the United Nations.

I also wrote a blog immediately after the 2016 elections that was posted on November 15, 2016:

As it stands now, climate change is not a genocide; nor is it a crime against humanity, much less inherently evil – but it has the prospect to be all three. That said, as decided at the Nuremburg trials, you don’t punish a possibility, no matter how dire. You try to change the outcome via education and other resources (Holocaust Remembrance Day). I am certainly not trying to compare Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler or to argue that a repeat of a short-term genocide of any sort is coming. As I’ve said repeatedly, though, in my opinion, Trump’s election – along with the resurgence of nationalistic, xenophobic, anti-globalization, anti-immigrant, anti-trade movements in many parts of the world is an early sign of the Anthropocene (June 14, 2016).

I posted the ruined Berlin synagogue above because I fear that violence will start to raise its ugly head once it becomes obvious that the actual implementations of Trump’s promised changes to “Make America Great Again” are not necessarily welcome.

There are still absentee votes being tallied but as it stands, Hillary gathered 61.04 million individual votes and 228 electoral votes, while Trump won 60.37 million individual votes and 290 electoral votes. Hillary’s win of the popular vote amounted to a margin of more than ½ million votes – a margin that seems to be drifting ever-wider. Interestingly, while Hillary’s plurality was larger than that of Al Gore in 2000, Richard Nixon in 1968, and John F. Kennedy in 1960, she and Al Gore lost the presidency but both Nixon and Kennedy won their respective elections. According to the US Elections Project, only 133 million of the close to 232 million eligible voters actually voted. This amounts to 57.6% participation. That’s about 3% higher than the 2012 election (see my post on March 29, 2016) but it still means that almost 100 million eligible voters that didn’t give enough of a damn to exercise that right. The turnout in Pennsylvania was 61.1% (6 of the 9.7 million) and in Florida it was 65.1% (9.5 out of 14.6 million). Trump won Pennsylvania by 68,000 votes and Florida by 119,770 votes – numbers that would essentially equate to a tie within a margin of error. 

As I said, only 50% of the eligible voters in the same generation as my med student friend (Millennials) voted in the 2016 election. We can look at both the climate and the electorate as collections of individuals – of weather and eligible voters, respectively. But we experience and understand climate changes by gathering multiyear data of weather patterns and elections are much quicker to calculate. We also have more immediate, individual power over election outcomes (and therefore policy matters) than overarching climate patterns.

Passivity should not be an option in either case. Go out and vote, if you can! If not, encourage your friends and family to do so!

About climatechangefork

Micha Tomkiewicz, Ph.D., is a professor of physics in the Department of Physics, Brooklyn College, the City University of New York. He is also a professor of physics and chemistry in the School for Graduate Studies of the City University of New York. In addition, he is the founding-director of the Environmental Studies Program at Brooklyn College as well as director of the Electrochemistry Institute at that same institution.
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1 Response to Election Day – Think Big!

  1. Shanjida Islam (team 2) says:

    Urban Population: How is Urban Population related to Climate Change?

    Climate change is a growing concern with extensive implications for life on earth. Ecosystem and biodiversity, on which human existence depends, are increasingly facing multiple anthropogenic stresses, caused by climate changes. Cities require energy in a variety of forms. Much of the primary energy sources transformed to be available to most of the cities around the world are fossil based , resulting in global climate change.

    Rapid urban growth habitually could end up with serious social and environmental challenges, such as urban poverty, various forms of pollution. Vulnerabilities to natural events and climate change impacts. The negative and unsustainable outcomes of current urban economies, which are based on high production and consumption, have become more visible and have gained more attention since the 1990s. In order to keep up with rapid urban expansion and urban population growth, more resources as well as more consumption and production are required. The ever increasing production and consumption in cities result in serious environmental problems in terms of the pollution of air, water and land as well as the degradation of ecosystem.

    Majority of the world’s population currently live in urbanized areas. Besides population, cities make up majority of the economy, resource consumption and the decision making power. Two-thirds of the economic production take place in urbanized areas. Cities produce more than half of the total global energy consumption. Two thirds of the greenhouse gas emissions reflect heavily upon in urbanized areas. These recent trends significantly intensify climate change.

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