What do you do when climate change drops out of politics? Whatever you can
We’re in a weird moment here. It’s obvious that there won’t be any political movement on climate change in America any time soon. The Democratic Party, the party that once at least displayed a green banner, has tucked the issue away until after November. There’s been only one real mention of the issue at the convention, from Bill Clinton — less than half a second of his 48 minutes. Clinton is both highly popular and not running for anything, so it was easy for him to do.
If the party wanted to focus on climate, Bill isn’t even the Clinton administration official one would ask. But his vice president, Al Gore, isn’t in Charlotte; instead, he’s covering the convention for his doomed cable channel, Current. An anonymous person told The Daily that Gore boycotted the Democratic convention because “he doesn’t get along with President Obama and is disappointed that Obama hasn’t pushed harder for a cap-and-trade law that would force Americans to use less fossil fuels.” Yeah, right. Convention organizers who’ve shown no desire to talk climate would have no incentive to offer the unpopular and polarizing former VP a speaking role.
Why Gore isn’t there is unimportant. What’s important is that Gore is now equivalent to climate change, and neither made it to Charlotte. Climate change is just getting mentions around the fringes, tiny bones from Clinton and delegates — and from activists outside the hall.
Like Rachel Hope. Hope is a 41-year-old member of Pissed-Off Polar Bears, an organization you’ve never heard of as she appears to constitute about 33 percent of the membership. She flew from Los Angeles to Tampa, where she began a hunger strike to raise awareness around climate change. Now in Charlotte, she’s on her eighth day without eating. For the strike to end, Hope issued a bunch of … optimistic demands — TV networks have to report on methane release and phytoplankton die-off, the New York Times has to fire Andy Revkin, and Obama has to call for climate action in his big convention speech. I spoke with her earlier today (she seems awfully chipper for someone who hasn’t eaten in a week) and she’s hopeful that Obama will come through tonight. (Even though she “has a hunch” that there’s “a hush order on global warming.”) If not — on with the strike.
This is “Pete the Pissed-off Polar Bear.” :|
Let’s assume that she is sincere, that a mother of two flew to Tampa and then North Carolina to sit outside drab convention centers in the heat and rain to do what is basically impossible: shift political opinion and make climate discussion a priority. What she’s trying to do is what Clinton didn’t and what Gore wasn’t given the opportunity to and what Obama won’t — make climate change central to American politics.
But it’s the common spirit of activism. Do something, whatever you can. Start a recycling drive or block Keystone or sit in a tree. It’s the democracy of action. When the politics degrade into “climatespotting” lip service on TV broadcasts, people do what they can, however futile.
Rachel Hope made it to Charlotte and is speaking out — more than Gore on the first point and more than almost everyone else on the second. “This is my children’s future,” Hope told me. “I can’t be a mom nurturing and educating my beautiful children and not handle this.” Even though she’s not going to accomplish anything, at least she can say: I tried.
Get Grist in your inbox