With governments unable or unwilling to pass climate change legislation we need to consider how others have successfully faced serious adversity. In the US there is no hope for climate change legislation for the remainder of President Obama’s first term and the recent victory of the Canadian Conservatives has shelved government support for a low carbon economy in that country for the next four years.
Due to the fact that we are unlikely to see significant policy and legislative actions, we need to consider other ways of advancing meaningful change.
Perhaps we need to revive the eternal wisdom of well respected leaders like Abraham Lincoln. This is a man who successfully navigated virulent opposition. Lincoln said, “I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crises. The great point is to bring them the real facts.”
In our times the provision of the ‘real facts’ is impeded by the propaganda machines of powerful oil interests and the politicians who are beholden to them. Nonetheless, we must try to move forward, As Lincoln said, “You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.” Despite the obstacles we face we must press on,”The probability that we may fail in the struggle ought not to deter us from the support of a cause we believe to be just.” Lincoln encourages us from the grave to work tirelessly towards what is right. “To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men.”
Lincoln was one of the greatest leaders in human history and in his day he faced a series of challenges, most notably bloody resistance to the emancipation proclamation. Lincoln’s “last best hope” letter to Congress contains some statements that are relevant to the dire environmental crisis we face today.
On December 1, 1862, one month before signing the Emancipation Proclamation, President Lincoln sent a message to Congress in which he said:
“We can succeed only by concert. It is not “can any of us imagine better?” but, “can we all do better?” The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise — with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.”
“Fellow-citizens, we cannot escape history. We of this Congress and this administration, will be remembered in spite of ourselves. No personal significance, or insignificance, can spare one or another of us. The fiery trial through which we pass, will light us down, in honor or dishonor, to the latest generation. We say we are for the Union. The world will not forget that we say this. We know how to save the Union. The world knows we do know how to save it. We — even we here — hold the power, and bear the responsibility. In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free — honorable alike in what we give, and what we preserve. We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth.”
Although these words were written almost 150 years ago, they resonate in light of the current environmental impasse. Today our very survival depends on freeing the environment from the slavery of human abuse.
As Lincoln said, “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”
© 2011, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.