A couple years ago I watched Wayne Coyne from The Flaming Lips hug EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson with his psychedelically proportioned, giant foam hands—one of many freak props familiar to anyone who has seen The Lips in the last ten years.
It was a free Earth Day concert on the lawn of the National Mall. Perhaps the event represented less of a demonstration of mass conscientiousness, and more of an opportunity for people to openly drink wine and smoke weed on federal property, while watching “Lighting Strikes The Postman” jammed out in front of The Capitol. Regardless, it was part of a time not long ago when we saw citizens, media, and elected officials (none of whom are exclusive from the other two) more engaged in the discussion about what is happening to our environment, what it means, and what to do about it.
Now, in this election year, “green” is largely out of style. And while that was inevitable in the context of pop culture, it is particularly frustrating to see the lack of discourse happening on the national political level regarding climate change, pollution, and other problems of epochal consequence. What is said by those vying to move into, or maintain residence at, our White House only makes shit worse.
First, it’s my understanding that every time Newt Gingrich speaks, his jowl-heated, tail pipe-flavored breath travels north and melts a giant, Newt-head sized chunk of ice from a glacier. Weirdly, that happens whether he is speaking about the perils of climate change, or not. (Plus, let’s not forget that the man talks almost constantly, making his volume of pollution competitive to a coal-fired power plant in China—or West Virginia.) Additionally, I have heard that every time President Obama promises to expand off shore drilling an oil executive gets his wings. That executive then uses his new wings to fly to northern Alaska and urinate on, and thus thaw out, the Arctic permafrost. It’s how billionaires in the energy sector mark their territory.
Of course, Ron Paul thinks the EPA limits our liberty to shit away the planet; Mitt Romney doesn’t understand what the North Pole is, because it isn’t a living, breathing corporation; and Rick Santorum hears the word “pole” and thinks “gay” (because deep down in his bigoted heart he is), and therefore considers it an abomination.
And that, folks, is what we are offered for leadership regarding the condition of our ever more polluted, adulterated, and exploited planet. In one corner—our habitually compromising, corporate-influenced, centrist president, who continues to attempt a handshake with a party who only shows him one finger in return.
In the other corner, we have status quo humpers, who think strictly in fiscal quarters, poll numbers, and days ‘til The Rapture, The Return, or whichever End of Days cop out they've chosen to replace real concern about maintaining our one and only world. (Okay, so Newt poses some long-term thinking with his ambitious ideas of building a base on the moon. It is almost like he is saying when you get tired of and wear out one world, you should be able to just ditch it and move on to another. Huh.)
So, for the rest of the year we will get none of the necessary and deserving discussion of climate change, sustainability, and the environment from Cable TV or anyone running for president. A lot of that is because so many of us are poor, unemployed, and freaked out.
It is unfortunate, but understandable. If your legs suddenly catch fire, you may momentarily forget that you have heart disease. Sure.
However, we are all able to check our A.D.D. and take influence from more than just the major mass message entities in our society. We can sustain the dump truck of marketing that tells us what to talk about at the dinner table, and still stay informed about the critical issues that may focus group poorly and generate less ad revenue.
Listen, I am just as easily distracted as the next American. (I have even taken three breaks during this piece to watch clips of The Kelly Family, do some push ups, and make sure no one posted drunken pictures of me on Facebook.) I’m not going to pretend that I have quit my day job to join the Occupy Movement, and I know that somewhere in Vermont there are undergrad volunteers for Bill McKibben that get more done by 9:00 a.m. than I will by May.
But if our elected officials, and want-to-be elected officials, won’t talk about what is happening to the planet, we sure as Santorum better.
We can do all of that and still talk about Super Bowl commercials, people we think are hot, and other bullshit. That’s the thing: not being a full-time activist does not mean that you must automatically be apathetic.
Yes, sneak wine into The Flaming Lips show and take pictures that make the Washington Monument look like your penis. Then you can recycle your wine bottle, look around, think about how lucky you are, and bounce ideas off your friends about how to take better care of our mutual home.
Even better, the next morning, you can put one of those ideas into practice. Perhaps call our White House and tell them you think the pee stains all over the melting Arctic are dangerous and unnecessary—or however you choose to phrase it.