It’s not strictly environmental, but I thought readers would be interested to see this preview of Barack Obama’s new book, The Audacity of Hope (available Oct. 2006). This should give you an idea of the theme:

No, what’s troubling is the gap between the magnitude of our challenges and the smallness of our politics — the ease with which we are distracted by the petty and trivial, our chronic avoidance of tough decisions, our seeming inability to build a working consensus to tackle any big problem.

Reader support helps sustain our work. Donate today to keep our climate news free.

Of course, there is another story to be told by the millions of Americans who are going about their business every day. They are on the job or looking for work, raising families, helping their kids with their homework, and struggling with high gas bills, insufficient health insurance, and a pension that some bankruptcy court somewhere has rendered unenforceable. They are alternately hopeful and frightened about the future. Their lives are full of contradictions and ambiguities. And because politics seems to speak so little to what they are going through — because they understand that politics today is a business and not a mission, and that power consistently trumps principle, and what passes for debate is little more than spectacle — they turn inward, away from the noise and rage and endless chatter. They may still vote, out of habit, anger, or some atavistic sense of civic obligation. But they don’t have much confidence that government can do them a lot of good. They hope, at best, that it does them no harm.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

A government that truly represents these Americans — that truly serves these Americans — will require a different kind of politics than what we have now. That politics will need to reflect our lives as they are actually lived. It won’t be prepackaged, ready to pull off the shelf. It will have to be constructed from the best of our traditions and will have to account for the darker aspects of our past. We will need to understand just how we got to this place, this land of warring factions and tribal hatreds. And we’ll need to remind ourselves, despite all our differences, just how much we share: common hopes, common dreams, a bond that will not break.

Whether idealism like this appeals to me varies from day to day. I hope he’s right. I hope another kind of politics is possible. Much depends on it.