Thursday, October 27, 2016

Red, Race and Blue

Bill McKibben and other activists are calling for a World War II-style mobilization to fight climate change.  But would Americans trust the government to carry it out?

Trust in government by party (Credit: Pew Research Center) Click to Enlarge.
On August 15th of this year, 71 years to the date after Japan announced its intention to surrender, author and activist Bill McKibben, writing in the webpages of New Republic, called for a World-War-II-scale effort on climate change.

Unlike previous calls for a wartime-level mobilization, such as that of Al Gore at the end of An Inconvenient Truth, McKibben’s call was buttressed by a detailed breakdown of the factories, plants, installations, and materials required.  He also pointed to a just-published book about America’s mobilization for World War II that carefully documented the federal government’s hands-on management of several key industries.

Together, these two detailed works imply that America both has the means to do what is needed now and that doing what was needed then had been more contentious than we remember.  Thus, he argued, Americans just have to muster the will to overcome the current political divide so that we can get down to the business of combatting climate change.


What McKibben’s impassioned essay left out was the profound transformation of the United States in the decades since the war.  As this review of recent titles assessing the state of America’s economy and politics will suggest, progress on climate change must begin with the recognition that “the past is a foreign country“:  we no longer live in the nation that won World War II.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia deserves special mention here.  He perfected the tactic of running for government by running against government.  He learned that one could block and obstruct responsive action in Congress and then campaign on the failure of Congress to act.

Read more at Red, Race and Blue

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