Monday, September 15, 2008


Eco-Justice Notes offers "The Dems in Denver" by Peter Sawtell, Executive Director of Eco-Justice Ministries. He wrote it just after the Democratic Convention August 25-28. Excerpt:

Global warming was named often in convention speeches. Frequently, it was included in the standard litany of issues that need to be addressed. That's good news, I guess. It is clear that concern about climate now has become utterly mainstream. We're certainly over any public questions about the reality of this crisis. But I was very concerned about the way that global climate change was addressed in lmost all of the speeches that I heard from the convention hall.

Solving global warming was presented with about the same urgency, and with about the same level of complexity, as procuring funds for college tuition or establishing universal health care. Until Al Gore spoke from the football field on Thursday afternoon, I heard no details about the vast scope and alarming impacts of the changing climate, and I heard nothing that called for profound changes or exceptional commitments. If the carefully scripted statements from the podium and in countless interviews are indicative of where the Democrats are willing to take us, then I must echo Gore's long-standing assessment. "We have the vision and know-how and technology we need to address global warming, but we lack the political will." This week revealed political awareness, but we're still far from the strong political leadership needed to dramatically reduce climate impacts.

Global warming was named often, but "the American dream" was the convention's repetitious drumbeat. Every biography was crafted as an example of the American dream, and every citizen was promised that they could live the dream. Here, too, I am concerned. The dream that was described -- both implicitly and explicitly -- went far beyond the ideal that "anybody can grow up to be President" or that we can all live a decent and fulfilling life.

Descriptions of "the dream" often moved far beyond a sufficiency that serves the common good, and praised the sort of prosperity and growth which are primary drivers of the ecological crisis. When 95% of all working families are considered "middle class", then there's little space to critique excessive consumption and inappropriate wealth. The American dream that was voiced spoke, too, of regaining US power in the world, rather than discerning a new role within the community of nations. That over-extended form of the American dream is an eco-justice nightmare.

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