2008 – The year we almost paid attention

Our short attention span will most likely be the reason we miss this opportunity to do something about our rush to environmental instability.

The distractions are everywhere.

A little La Nina blusters through and climatologists predict a cooler than “normal” year. By cooler they mean that 2008 will still in the top 10 of hottest years on record, just not in the top five. But the headlines will grab our attention long enough for us to think the pressure has been relieved. Our happy thoughts saved the day! Long hot showers and round-trips to Disney for everyone! Why bother trying to fix something that doesn’t seem to be broken at all?

Then the economy tanks and suddenly a more pressing, more critical, more important issue is thrust upon us. Our consumption of disposable widgets and plastic play things must not be muffled. Don’t choke our American dream of closet organizers and wider screen televisions, not now, not when I was almost on the phone to order the home gym so that I could become the lean, trim, rippled, sex magnate I am. My ugly duckling complex remains intact until we get our rebate checks and someone sounds the all clear. There is no time to think about the millions who will starve, riot, revolt, and crush the weak in their dash for water, food, resources, and security, we need more salad shooters and we need them now!

Or will it be another attack, or maybe thwarted attack. A perceived thwarted attack on our homeland, or allies. That is if we can find any allies. The swords will rattle, our leaders will spin the air sirens and we’ll be told to be afraid. Shut out the light of reason with our blackout curtains, dive under the covers until the war wagons come rolling gently into your driveway to draft the children and pillage the pantry for supplies. “We must fight them there or we will surly fight them here,” they whisper as the machines siphon the last few drops of OPEC oil from your minivan. “It is an epic battle between good and evil,” they murmur and thumb through your wallet. “History will prove the ends justify these mean means,” is the last thing you hear as they blindfold and gag you. Better to not see the swindle nor voice opposition, you wouldn’t want to be confused with the enemy, would you? Even if we don’t swallow the bait this time, the noise will drone out all other concerns.

And when celebrity no longer holds our interest we conjure our entertainment from the political election drama. “Did you see the debates? Can you believe they said that? Doom to us all if they get the job!” We set these groomed puppets to do our business bidding like glossy farmers of genetically altered facts. Take the germ of an idea, heap a healthy dose of manure on it and watch it grow into a bean stock worthy of Jack. You can’t run on a single topic, you need many planks in your platform, you must please most of the people most of the time. So grab some old growth forest lumber and heat up the branding iron. Stamp one with “jobs” and another with “trade”, burn “Social Security” into one and then when you find gaping holes in your floor fill the gaps with “Support our troops”. That always works, just don’t look down, the water is rising.

I read in a book during my childhood that to catch a raccoon you simply have to drill a hole in a hollow log and drop in some shiny bobble. The animal will reach in to grab it and then not be able to fit its hand back out the hole. Supposedly the raccoon will just sit there not realizing it has only to let go of the prize in order to save its life. It doesn’t seem like we Americans are really that much different. We look for the next shiny mind candy, grab on and refuse to release it, even though we have the capacity to understand that when the lights go out, when the stores have been emptied, when the fuel stops flowing, the cops and hospitals don’t respond and tanks are rolling in front of grade schools to keep the peace that none of these distractions matter.

So is set the stage for 2008, the year when we had one last chance to make a difference, to surface as the nation that could lead the world to a better more just and sustainable footing. If you think this election is about the economy, imagine how valuable your beloved 401K will be when you are burning your kitchen table to boil your drinking water.

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