The horror tide recedes. We grin with wonder, our hearts flooded with relief, as the toxic surge slides away.
This is a good time to celebrate. Our votes dispatched a sinister force, a sneering virulence relentlessly choosing rot and death for us, rather than vigor and life.
But the dark forces that whipped reservoirs of malignancy and contagion into great crashing waves remain. Today we stand blinking in the sunlight, savoring the storm’s retreat, the diminishment of its howl. But we witness destruction in every direction. The tide loosed poison across the United States. It pooled. It slinked down into fragile, volatile places. The poison saturated entire landscapes.
Tide “polluted much more than we understand”
The horror tide’s sloshing stew of contaminates interfered with rational thought and debased delicate human qualities like compassion and empathy. It persuaded many that it was just fine for powerful people to place children in cages. That white people are better than everybody else. That violence is noble, science is a hoax, greed is grand and caring is for suckers.
Our collective immersion in contagion polluted much more than we yet understand. Fitting that just as the psychic miasma began to thin in March, inviting us to envision a hopeful future as election season intensified, a literal rather than figurative virus swarmed across the planet. Fitting, too, that those caught in the horror tide’s currents failed to understand or even see the pandemic upending human life. The avarice that possessed them, the brute force they championed, the dismissal of intellectual rigor and benevolence — all of it stoked the proliferation of disease, the dismantling of the economy, the sprawl of death and their own political defeat.
We will navigate the months and years ahead as visitors to a defiled world. A keen desire for restoration will stir our spirits. But restoration is not enough. The landscape swamped by the horror tide failed us. Bulwarks collapsed. Meanwhile, the pestilence gathers strength, even as we evicted it from the seat of power that it so covets, that it demands for final triumph.
We need more than restoration or even revolution to nurture health, to plant seeds for something like harmony. We need rebirth.
Four Years of Extreme Environmental Degradation
So many things must be done simultaneously, and with great urgency. For example, we must reimagine our relationship with the natural world. The blind, pathological gluttony for treasure that seethed and boiled in the horror tide startled with its rapaciousness.
National monuments tossed like thank you gifts to oil and mining companies. Protections for more than half of the country’s wetlands shelved. Limits on carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and vehicles discarded. Wildlife protections eliminated to literally pave the way for more oil and gas leasing.
The horror tide pulled the United States out of the Paris Climate Agreement. It opened up its 25,000 square miles of pristine old- and new-growth forest for logging and development in the Tongass National Forest in Alaska. The Tongass, the nation’s largest of its kind, stores about 8 percent of all carbon held in U.S. national forests.
The past four years stand as a spectacle of slaughter. Our waterways, oceans, forests, grasslands, deserts and atmosphere founder. But they weren’t exactly thriving prior to 2016. All that we have witnessed since then was just an aggrandizement of a pre-existing condition.
Most of us understand things must change. Our house has been on fire for years, yet we still toss gasoline into the flames. The conflagration will consume us all. The horror tide will seem but a trifle.
Time to plant Green New Deal
The Green New Deal is a good start, some final version of which President Biden must embrace and trumpet. An especially beautiful thing about the Green New Deal’s myriad proposals is they address two vital issues — climate change and income inequality — at the same time.
Without dramatic differences between incomes in the United States, the horror tide never would have oozed across the country. In fact, the tide discovered much of its power in currents conceived through friction between those of means who look ahead and see things glowing rosier, and those struggling to even dream of better stations in life.
The tide courted a certain slice of the latter. It promised things it could never deliver, like manufacturing jobs performed now by other developing countries. It beguiled with sermons about turning the United States into an America First island. Here in America, it screamed, we tend to ourselves, and ignore the rest of the world. This is how we win.
No hollow promises with Green New Deal
It was a seductive fantasy. But it hasn’t improved economic situations anywhere. Not in Rust Belt towns where prosperity often does not extend far beyond that which a minimart job can deliver. Not in farm country, where the America First approach eliminated vital foreign markets for farmers, like China.
Instead of offering jobs, the tide got rid of them. Instead of opening fresh markets for trade and business opportunities, it closed them. And then it erected false villains: minorities (who steal jobs from white people), education (for leading people down false, ruinous paths), cities (for Satanic decadence and corrosive sloth). The list of false villains is quite long.
The worldwide climate crisis requires enormous investments in technology. The sooner solar panels and windmills replace coal and gas for electricity, the further out we push our species’ extinction. As compostable and highly recyclable materials package our goods, rather than petroleum plastic, our extinction grows more distant. When batteries rather than heat from burned fossils powers our vehicles, we buy more time. If vast teams of people plant trees around the world, billions of them, we begin to trap some of the atmospheric C02 that dooms us.
Green jobs, abundant future
All of this requires jobs. Other countries, like China, have taken the lead with solar and wind industries. But with a strong Green New Deal offering workers high wages and companies big markets, we can cover the roofs and vacant lots of the United States with solar panels and deliver high-paying jobs to workers. Businesses that make plastic and boxes out of hemp, bottles out of fungus and fuel from algae require skilled workers. We need these companies in Saginaw and Pittsburgh, in Shreveport and San Bernardino and Brownsville. We need them everywhere.
Green tech is extremely promising, for the planet, its people and politics. It offers jobs that foster good paychecks and pride.
We need much more than manufacturing jobs to save ourselves. Most of what is required hinges on behavioral changes. Become vegetarians. Don’t burn fossil fuels, or participate in activities that rely on them. Plant trees. Reuse, reuse, reuse.
Our future also demands technologies we do not yet recognize. Tools to trap carbon already clogging the atmosphere. Batteries strong enough to power jets and ships. Agriculture that grows food without simultaneously stealing so much from the planet and ripening the climate crisis.
The horror tide recedes. Marinate in joy. Dance, sing, praise goddesses.
Say the words, President Biden. Say the words, Vice President Kamala Harris.
Tomorrow, let’s all get to work on a Green New Deal.