Climate Patriotism

“Patriot (noun ˈpā-trē-ət, -ˌät): one who loves his or her country…” From the from the Ancient Greek πατριώτης (patriotēs, “of the same country.”)

Tattered US flag flies in wake of this week's superstorm (ANDREW KELLY/REUTERS)To love our country, we must care about its future; and we can’t care about its future without taking into account the ways our nation’s actions today are shaping that future, and attempting to steer a course that will leave our countrymen better off in the future. To love our country today is also to wish to see it secure and prosperous tomorrow.

So to be patriots, we have to want to be good ancestors to those who are coming after us. And being good ancestors today means, perhaps above all else, fighting climate change. No greater threat faces America in the coming years than climate chaos. We learned that with Katrina; we’ve learned that with droughts and floods and wildfires; and now we’re learning it afresh as our nation recovers from the assault of a superstorm of unprecedented size.

There’s a lot of confusion on this point, so it’s worth speaking plainly. Climate change is here. The jury’s in on that. And climate change is changing the weather. The more we pollute, the more (and more dangerously) things will change. We already will have to deal with serious consequences (bigger storms, larger droughts, worse wildfires) for many years to come, but it is not too late to avoid the truly catastrophic changes that lie ahead on this path. We can choose to avert (or at least lessen) the disasters aimed at our children, grandchildren and generations to come.

Or we can, in effect, wage war on the future of our country by continuing business as usual. We can continue to spew greenhouse gasses from coal plants and tailpipes, continue to shrug off the need for defenses against worsening weather, continue to pretend the economy we have now is the last word in innovation while the new economy passes us by (letting overseas competitors own the markets for renewable energy, clean technology, green building and rugged infrastructure).

We can continue to do these things, and the results are completely predictable: a weakened, impoverished America whose people (our future countrymen) reel from disaster after disaster while the world around them grows more and more chaotic.

Or we can defend our country. We can lead the world in slashing emissions through innovation and bold rebuilding; we can prepare our cities and infrastructure, farms and forests for the rough days ahead; and we can secure our prosperity and security by becoming the country that invents, designs, manufactures and sells a bright green future.

The choice is no longer between left and right, coasts and heartland, blue and red: the choice is between climate patriotism for all America… and failure.

[Photo: Tattered US flag flies in wake of this week's superstorm (ANDREW KELLY/REUTERS)]